Six Authentic Connections: My Son, That Is Something To Be Proud Of
April 18, 2021
I am proud of our teen son this morning. I’m up later than usual at 6am. I was watching “The Crown” last night, and it’s okay. I don’t consume much media or popular entertainment these days, because I think the life in the real world and trying to save the earth is more interesting. But I did watch a few episodes, and was up just a bit later than usual. In about an hour, I’ll plog to the rec center. Surfrider is cleaning PB this morning, so with all those people there – I’ll go where it is more neglected and applaud them on Instagram.
But yesterday I was proud of our teen son. I know he did this activity voluntarily. Unlike a lot of the world, our teen soon is difficult to “influence” or just plain manipulate. He has a good head on his shoulders and he wants to find his own way in life including how he will impact the world. When he was doing his public service hours, I offered for him to do a litter picking event with me (I am Dr. Plastic Picker) but he instead volunteered for the Padres Volunteer Squad. He said to me, “Mommy, I want to do my own thing.” And I left it at that.
But yesterday, he did his thing. It happened organically and I didn’t force it. He is part of our Children’s Arts Council and indeed has added quite a bit to the group. He was invited by Tania Pryputniewicz, a poet who volunteers her precious time to also lead youth writing groups. They worked together yesterday to lead a poetry workshop at the Coronado Public Library and six kids virtually showed up. I was intensely curious at how it all went, and I know one of my instagram litterpicker friend’s child came. But otherwise despite all the advertising and posting, six kids showed up.
And together they reached six kids for a virtual poetry workship about a climate theme. I’m still processing everything that happened. As someone who helps manage an often fractious department, I know that you can actually have folks on company time (essentially it is their job to show up with good pay and benefits and more than twice the average as outside) and some people will still not show up. Literally won’t come to a mandatory meeting. I don’t know how many committeess I’ve been on, and I’m the only physician who showed up and I know the other physician leaders are being paid to show up and they don’t.
But yesterday , during a virtual poetry workship – six other human beings who are children showed up to write poetry with a published poet who is also a mother and my teen son helped. I tried not to pry too much, but he did say at the end everyone waved and said “Thank you [his name]” and seemed happy. And with that, I know whatever happened yesterday with the poetry workshop was real and authentic.
I finished a panel discussion that I was part of yesterday, and I was emotionally exhausted afterwards. The emotional exhaustion is greater than the amount of time it took to participate in the panel which was about 10 minutes. I shared a piece of myself with the Oregon Pediatric Society, a story about a little girl who is cancer free now and getting a stem cell transplant from her father who is a perfect match. The origin story about why Dr. Plastic Picker came to be is complex, but some of it was burn out and that the world seemed wrong two years ago when this child was diagnosed with a very rare cancer and another toddler named Ashley died of a brain tumor. Both toddlers were my patients in the fundamental sense of the world, that I’m the pediatrician who had cared for them since birth. But Friday when I talked to the pediatric oncologist, he told me the good news. I cried. Mr. Plastic Picker was worried that something had happened. “Are those happy tears?” my college-boyfriend now husband for more than almost 20 years asked. I didn’t answer him and just blurted out something. I had to lay there and process it all. For me, that cancer is gone and it gives me so much hope that through true kindness and positivity and acting for the greater good can defeat something that seemed so wrong. A toddler should not have cancer. The oncologist did the work and this baby did all the work. But her mother taught me kindness and reminded me that positivity and goodness at a cellular level can alter the course of the universe. And that is partially the origin of Dr. Plastic Picker.
And six children who had a virtual poetry workship with a talented poet, and my son helped in his way. And yesterday I gave a short talk and answered a handful of questions and 54 other pediatricians showed up. That is how one changes the world. Authentic connections as the cellular level. Because poetry will connect us. Litter-picking connects us. Seeing eachother is the natural light of the real world, and listening to our children’s written phrases as they contsruct a poem. And with that I am grateful thsi morning.