From Language Delay to AP Computer Science: It’s a Big Day for Our Family
May 15, 2020
Today is a big day for our family. Our oldest is in ninth grade and taking his AP Computer Science exam today. The picture above is a silly collage of screenshots I took last night, while he was relaxing downstairs in his room. I was playing with our puppy but more to distract myself from worrying about our son. His exam is at 1pm today, and Mr. Plastic Picker is working from home to make sure our son logs in on time and everything goes as planned despite the abbreviated exam due to COVID-19 quarantine. The exam is an hour long and online, which is different than other AP exams in years past. But despite the abbreviated nature of the exam, it is a big day for our family.
Mr. Plastic Picker and I met in collage and proceeded to live an idyllic life of students in love. We were always very frugal and were raised with similar values, so we would go out once a week to the same Korean restaurant for over 10 years at the same table with the same waitress and ordering the same dish. Otherwise we mostly just ate simple dinners in the University Dining Hall and would take walks around Boston. We watched a lot of movies. And then at some point, it was time to have kids and we had our oldest when I was in between Intern and Junior year of pediatric residency also still in Boston. I remember sitting with the Chief of Pediatrics, this lauded figure in academic medicine who had published many front-page articles in Nature, and he asked me to be Chief Resident – and I was honored and accepted but also told him I was pregnant.
I think when we decided to have a baby, it was biologically the best time because we were both in our mid 20s and I was thinking more about the genetic health of our children. Mr. Plastic Picker’s parents wanted us to proceed with life as well. My husband is the only son of the only son in a patriarchal culture, so I understood their family’s need. I didn’t feel it was unreasonable or overbearing as I was raised in a very conservative family. At the first anatomic survey they told me it was a boy and healthy, and I was not surprised. Everything in life had gone as I had planned, of course we would conceive a boy and quickly – because we had done everything “right.”
I honestly don’t know what we were planning in terms of raising an actual child during residency. But I went on brief bedrest but even them, he came almost full term. I had a very abbreviated maternity leave. And then my parents-in-law in their mid 60s sold everything, house and businesses, and moved in with us in our small one-bedroom condo in the middle of Harvard Square to help us raise our son while we were still training. In my young and idealistic heart I thought, oh what fun – I like having people around and I genuinely loved my parents-in-law.
But the next three years were hard. Mr. Plastic Picker and I finished our mutual training programs. The five of us lived together alternatively happy and not happy in a small space, had family members in and out of our condo, and always driving back and forth from Boston to New York to try to visit Mr. Plastic Picker’s sisters and their families. I then became pregnant with another baby who was sicker than expected, and was a girl – and I thought not as prized as our son. This was something I made up when I was frankly in post-partum depression that neither I nor anyone around me recognized. Let’s just say the first three years of our son’s life was hard for him and for me.
He was the perfect little boy, exactly like Mr. Plastic Picker but better – because he had some of me in him. He was loved too much, as my mother-in-law and I had silent disagreements about minutiae. He was thriving with the attention and love, and either was only every with me or with his paternal grandmother. I thought he was thriving. I thought he were in the right place, and I convinced myself we were happy. Looking back I knew I was not. And then during maternity leave with our second while in the NICU, I became strakly aware that my perfect first-born was moderate language delayed. I couldn’t find a preschool for him, and I could not understand a word he said.
The next 10 years, we made every decision to correct what had happenend. One thing I am good at, is responding to CODE situations. When they call a pediatric code, I am the first one there. This was in my life, a CODE situation. I had been given everything in life, and I felt impending doom that I could not make sure that my son was given just the same opportunities. I realized that I was not replaceable. He needed me. I couldn’t outsource his development anymore.
The next 10 years, we made every decision based on his intellectual development. I had never quit anything in my life, but I left pediatric endocrine fellowship to do a research year because that is where I could find a preschool. We left our dreams of academic medicine, because we needed a good school for him. We moved back to Southern California because this is where the school we wanted for him was located. We had our little language delayed 3 year old “interview” at pretentious private schools, because we knew he needed the small class environment. I esconed him in this life to make sure he would be okay. He moved houses because I knew he needed his own bathroom. I am guilty that my first-born has guided most of our life decisions.
And here we are today. Mr. Plastic Picker is making coffee on his French Press. My mother-in-law is chopping vegetables for her breakfast. And I am blogging away again at the kitchen table. Both children are sleeping peacefully, and I will be the only one to leave the house today. He is still sleeping and his father will make sure he is awake when it is time. Mr. Plastic Picker even bought a 3lb bag of cuties for $6 and over-priced seltzer water! Our son asks for them and Mr. Plastic Picker knows it’s those little things that will help him relax before his exam.
Our son makes us very proud. He is fundamentally a kind person, has a bit of a sarcastic edge, and his speech is articulate now. And today he is taking his AP Computer Science exam as a ninth grader. Dr. Plastic Picker has to go off to work but I get to leave at about 3pm today and we are going to have an AP COMPUTER SCIENCE party tonight with a cake that spells AP!!! His sister is so excited as well.