Sorry Iâ€™ve been quiet; we had a bit of a family medical emergency here that took up much of my energy. Sometime late last week, my five-year-old daughter injured her knee, and with each day that passed it seemed to worsen. By Tuesday her knee was a huge, red swollen mass with a puffed-up white area on top. (Hang in there with me, as there is an eventual point to all of this.)
After getting the knee drained of pus and going with her for a follow-up visit yesterday, she and I were chatting while I administered her antibiotic and helped change the Band-Aid. She was telling me all about how painful it had been to have it drained, in the kind of detail only a kindergartener can muster, when we started talking about doctors. She made some comment about how doctors are girls.
â€œWell, boys can be doctors too,â€? I told her.
She didnâ€™t contradict me (for once), but I could see from her face that she didnâ€™t really believe it. And as Iâ€™ve been thinking about it, Iâ€™ve realized that she doesnâ€™t remember ever having been to a male doctor. She had one male pediatrician when she was a baby, but besides that, every doctor, every dentist, every eye specialist, every physicianâ€™s assistant sheâ€™s ever had has been a woman. I think that the only male doctor sheâ€™s ever seen has been Doc Hogg on â€œBear in the Big Blue House,â€? and Iâ€™m not sure that counts because heâ€™s not human. J
With the exception of the dentist, all of that was unintentional on our part. (When we moved to Kentucky and I was looking for a dentist, I succumbed to a wonderfully sexist ad in the yellow pages: â€œGentle dentistry with a womanâ€™s touch.â€? I picked up the phone immediately, and Iâ€™ve never been sorry.) Jerusha must think that the entire health-care industry is driven by women. And, of course, education, as sheâ€™s never had a male teacher or school principal. Oh, and publishing, since almost all of the colleagues whoâ€™ve visited me here at the house have been women. In her mind, maybe all that men do in the professional world is bring truckloads of books, since the representatives who come every day from UPS, FedEx, Airborne Express, and the post office are all guys.
Is anyone else astonished by this? Things have changed so much in a short time. Iâ€™m only 34, and I keenly remember my mom going out of her way when I was Jerushaâ€™s age to tell me about women in various jobs and affirm that I could do anything, be anything. But I didnâ€™t know any women doctors until I went to college. Ditto for women pastors, engineers, business executives, or college professors. As you can imagine, going to Wellesley was like coming home. I felt hedged in with possibilities.
It seems that Jerusha is already there. What makes me happiest is that since she was three, her answer to the inevitable â€œwhat do you want to be when you grow upâ€? question has been immediate and consistent: â€œI want to be a mommy.â€? Whatâ€™s wonderful is that mommy-hood is what she sees as highest and noblest even when she has already experienced what my mom tried to give to me: she simply takes it for granted that women can be anything.
What else can change in a generation, I wonder?