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I struggled through high school biology and chemistry and tried to convince my academic counselor those courses should also fulfill my foreign language requirement. Science was not my forte as I floundered like an amoeba out of water.
It wasn't important to me to know how a plant breathes as I always thought photosynthesis was organizing one's picture albums. I was content with the knowledge that Bunsen burners were hot, test tubes shatter rather easily if dropped and always team yourself up with a lab partner who listened to the teacher's instructions. I left high school with a thankful belief that I was forever finished with discussions of cytoplasm, organic compounds, physiology and the like.
However, an amazing transformation occurred when I became a parent. As a freshman at the University of Parenthood I suddenly found myself majoring in Public Health with a minor in Childhood Ailments. Virus, immunization, conjunctivitis and incubation periods were now important pieces of my vocabulary. The anatomy of the middle ear became one of my favorite topics of dinner table conversation. I found myself diagramming Eustachian tubes on napkins with friends as I contemplated the purchase of an otoscope to quickly diagnose the presence of an ear infection.
Bacteria became something other than that which grew in my refrigerated Tupperware. I no longer subscribed to sports magazines but instead received the New England Journal of Medicine. When I recognized that Roseola was not a new brand of margarine and Croup was not the latest rock band from Sweden, I felt assured that I was gaining the appropriate medical terminology.
When I would suspect my child was a little under the weather, I'd find myself playing amateur Marcus Welby. I'd call the pediatrician's office and state: "I'd like a morning appointment to consult with the doctor regarding my son. He's been exhibiting signs of mild gastric difficulty and I believe he is slightly dehydrated. I'll be giving him some fluids to replace the loss of electrolytes. My initial thought is rotavirus. I'll be making rounds about 10:30 a.m. and look forward to discussing this case with Dr. Smith at that time."
It never sounded as though the receptionist cherished my call. She was even less enthused when I arrived at their office. Perhaps a little knowledge is dangerous or at least it may be slightly annoying.
I also appointed myself as Commander-in-Chief of the battle involving germ infiltration. The Center for Disease Control was no longer in Atlanta but in my family room. I finely tuned my ability to spot another's runny nose from 100 yards. I could walk into a room of 20 individuals, hear a sneeze, and immediately identify the culprit. I wasn't going to be an unwilling participant in the game of Bouncing Bacteria or Peripatetic Parasite. I was the constant defender from any contagious conditions. Call me the protector from pathogen. Call me the vindicator from virus. Call my mental health into question.
When it came to wondering whether our child actually may be slightly sick, my wife was more the Receptacle of Realism while I was usually the Oracle of Optimism. I never wanted to believe he might have a little something. She'd recognize that when our baby was fussy and began to pull on his earlobe that this might represent signs of an ear infection. As the Oracle of Optimism I was convinced he was fine and had simply mastered the game of charades. The tugging of his earlobe was simply a clue as to what the word sounds like! I stood by waiting for the next clue as to how many syllables. Logic had apparently escaped me.
By the time my child turned four my compulsive nature was within normal parental limits although I stood a constant lookout for chicken pox and measles. Much to my amazement, I had gained the required knowledge of biology and couldn't help but wonder - wouldn't my high school science teachers be proud?
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