My older sister never lets any of her siblings forget that she succeeded at the most prestigious – and most difficult – profession in America.
She’s a doctor.
In college, I told her I was going for three majors in three years and summa cum laude. She responded with, “Well, of course you can do that with liberal arts.”
When our younger sister went to law school, she said, “You know what the difference between law students and medical students is? When a law professor says, ‘Good morning class,’ the students respond with ‘Good morning.’ When a doctor tells his class, ‘Good morning,’ med students write it down.”
When my Big Brother bemoaned only getting an eight-hour sleep shift on submarines, Judgmental Genius Doctor Sister scoffed, “Ha! Eight whole hours? What a luxury! Two hours of sleep, that’s what I get when I’m on call. If I’m lucky.”
After winning Medical School, spending several years as an intern, and then several years as a resident, Dr. Sis eventually became the head of an oncology department at a prestigious university. She’s still in surgery several times a week. She works on cancer research. She terrifies her residents. She saves lives, too.
Judgmental Genius Doctor Sister is awe-inspiring. Most people recognize that she is at the pinnacle of the most prestigious profession in the United States.
As a bonus, after all those years of sleep-deprivation, Doctor Sis can sleep anywhere – including in the middle seat on a plane between two large men. She doesn’t even recline her seat or put her head on her neighbor’s shoulder. She sleeps sitting straight up.
Freaky napping abilities aside, I’ve always thought of a successful doctor like my sister as every parent’s dream child.
And then I met my Chinese-American in-laws.
My father-in-law is a retired civil engineer. My husband followed in his father’s footsteps, getting a Masters of Electrical Engineering.
When my Baby Brother visited at the same time as my in-laws, my mother-in-law, Sunny, quizzed him about his career. He explained that he had a B.S. in Computer Science, and had just wrapped up his Masters in Finance at NYU.
Sunny was impressed. “So you have to be good at math, then.”
Baby Brother gave me an inquiring look. I sighed and told him, “Go ahead. Tell her all about your perfect math SAT scores.”
“So you are really, really good at math! So smart!” Sunny gave a delighted chuckle. “Just like my husband! And my son!”
Baby Brother attempted modesty, saying, “Well, I don’t know if I’m as good at math as Andy.”
“Do you think Calculus is easy?” I asked.
“Well, it’s not easy, but it’s not that hard.”
“Oh, Calculus,” said Sunny, shaking her head. “Andy’s sister Maddy, she had a hard time with Calculus. She was going to be an engineer, but it’s so sad. She just wasn’t as smart. She couldn’t do the math like Andy. She couldn’t be an engineer after all.”
Baby Brother asked, “So what happened to Maddy?”
Sunny heaved a mournful sigh and said, “Poor Maddy. She could only be a doctor.”
Baby Brother and I stared, jaws slack, as Sunny left the kitchen (and a thousand WASP and Jewish mothers rolled in their graves).
After Baby Brother and I had finished crying silent tears of suppressed mirth, he whispered, “Next Christmas, I call dibs on telling Judgmental Genius Doctor Sister how she was too stupid to make it as an engineer.”
I waved a threatening spatula. “Oh, hell, no, little brother.
Line starts after me.”