I was getting very frustrated… Amy and I were late. I had to drop her off at school and then I had an important meeting at the university. I don’t like to be late. “C’mon, Amy! Let’s get going… we are late!” She sat on the stairs by the front door and yowled: “Daaad! …my shoelaces are untied!”
Amy was… oh, maybe 4 or so, and Laurie and I had been working hard over the last month on teaching her how to tie shoelaces. I knew she could do it, because she had successfully performed the behavior several times. But, it was still a new behavior, and she was quite slow.
I looked at her, and I realized I had a clear choice. I could tie the shoelaces for her, and we would be on time. Or, I could wait for her to do it, and we would be late.
I thought about it for 5 seconds, and then I made the decision. I sat down on the stairs next to her, and I said, “We’ll wait for you to tie the laces. If you have trouble, I will give you some advice, but I won’t do it for you.”
So…. Slowly and deliberately, she tied the laces. I was gritting my teeth with impatience… WOW! She really was slow! But, she went at it in a diligent way, and, not needing any advice, she finished and we were off. Yes, we were both late, but I don’t think it mattered much.
Within a few more weeks, she was tying the laces with no problem at all.
A few decades later, I was enjoying having dinner with Amy when she was a Pediatric Resident at Children’s National Center in Washington. By then, she was an official M.D., and would soon be a certified Pediatrician. I noticed that she glanced at her watch a few times, so I asked her if she was in a hurry. She replied, no, but she had made an appointment to be in for the midnight shift at the hospital.
“Why are you going in?” I asked. “I don’t think this is your regular shift?”
“No”, she replied. “But, I’ve arranged to spend the night shift with the blood tech. She knows how to take blood better than anyone in the hospital, and I want her to teach me everything she knows.”
Well, I certainly admired her devotion to her work, and especially her modest and pragmatic attitude that she (a doctor) could learn from a technician. (By the way… I also noticed this when I visited with Amy in Africa. All the ward nurses and orderlies gave her this look of respect and adoration and called her “Dr. Amy.”)
Most of all, I thought to myself, “She’s come a long way since she learned how to tie shoelaces.”
I wonder how she is at doing stitches?