Sol said this one thing to me, it immediately made me cry, and it’s not what you think.
My big feelings took me by surprise that day (like they usually do) and I just sighed in surrender to it. I’ve been avoiding it for too, too long and it was now unavoidable. What she said uncovered a place within me, so tender, so sore, that was covered up with a thick callous built from years of neglect. I’d rather forget. But today I was forced to remember, wiped my tears, and swallowed the huge ass frog in my throat…hard. As she said to me,
with a happy sparkle in her eyes so glittery, and so innocent it was just…so pure…in her little chipette voice, “Mom, I hope I have science today…I love science!” There it was.
I remember that feeling of loving science as a girl, and it brought fat hot tears to my eyes, and the surprise of giant knot in my throat was making me feel panicked because I wanted to reply, “Oh thats so, so wonderful, Soli Boli!”, but I didn’t because I could feel my voice was going to be all croaky & shaky. I also knew it would sound like a sad lie, and she would sniff out my phoniness in a hot second. I wanted to deflect in a “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” way, like the great & powerful Oz…but no dice. My soft cry baby self (who maybe makes an appearance but only once a year) has reared her butt ugly cry face. Ew.
You see, I too loved science…once.
When I was in the 5th grade I had and orthodontist that I loved. He actually paid attention me. His office was modern and slick, always playing current music, had the best magazines in the waiting area, with a fish tank, and fun colorful art everywhere. He was cool & funny and spoke to me like a person, not just in a trying-to-impress-your-mom-because-she’s-standing-right-there kind of way. He made me feel interesting, and like what I said mattered. I loved visiting him to get my braces tightened, because it meant we had to travel to Massapequa which I felt was a swanky town in comparison to Central Islip where we lived. He drove a red corvette and my older sister was obsessed with Prince so I just thought that was everything. Plus nobody in my neighborhood drove such a gorgeous car. I just knew that one day I would be dentist just like him. I pictured it all the time…I would have my own practice with fun art everywhere, treat kids like people, and drive a fancy car. It was my go-to answer for years whenever someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said it with such confidence, “I’m going to be a dentist.” I had a strong vision of myself rolling up to my modern office in a heels, embodying the perfect mixture of fun, smart, and beautiful like I had always wanted to be. Yes, I was certain dentistry was for me.
I had a love affair with science then. I loved experiments, growing spores, dissecting frogs, making slates for a microscope, constellations, pollination, I especially loved learning about DNA and genetics. I was hot & heavy with science for a few years there in my youth. Then it felt like out of nowhere, my love affair with science started suffering around 10th grade or so. I started barely pulling C’s & random D’s in biology… and then came chemistry and I was fully flunking because of the chemical components equations using math. I didn’t know science had anything to do with math.
I hated math.
I had been placed in remedial math classes since 8th grade. I could never recover from being placed in non-regents (remedial) math classes after that. I didn’t understand what happened to me. I used to get great grades in Elementary school, and I particularly loved science. I never knew to ask for help, I slipped through the academic cracks, I truly believed that I was incapable. I never even challenged it. What a fucking shame. I will never forget that pivotal moment when I met with my guidance counselor senior year and she dropped a bomb on me that I had never ever thought of until then…
I needed good grades in math and science to be a dentist.
The saddness I felt, the disappointment in myself, the unworthiness, the defeat. You might as well of told me I needed to hurry up and speak Chinese by tomorrow, because I believed right then & there, it was impossible for this girl to do that…no way…no how. I made a solemn vow to myself never to love science again, never speak of it, because if I was too dumb to get good grades in math…and science had to do with math…I must be too dumb to be a dentist.
I concluded that I will never be a dentist.
I never spoke of wanting to be a dentist again…but I never forgot and certainly never grieved the loss of that dream. Until now. Standing in front of Sol the little girl who can’t wait for science…and I want her to love science, I want her to love math. There are so many times in parenting where you feel like Forest Gump when he asks Jenny about his son by asking ‘Is he????” ….like me??
Sol, please don’t be like me! Please be good in math like your dad, so you can be any ol’ thing you want to be!
It changed the course of my life that false belief. How do I undo all of the false beliefs in things that are not true? Like most things the first step is acknowledgement. So here I am acknowledging it, with a daughter who loves science, which triggers my grieving over lost dentistry dreams, knowing theres plenty more dumb things I believed, and a frog in my throat.