Under The Collar Experiment

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Riddle Me This, Batgirl

              A young boy and his father are in a car accident.
              The father dies at the scene.
              The boy is transported to the hospital and immediately taken into surgery.
              The surgeon walks into the operating room and says,
              "I can't operate on this boy -- he is my son!"

              The question:  Who is the surgeon?

Not long ago, this riddle was posed by the producers at Good Morning America to a group of adults -- people on the streets of New York -- and the great majority could not come up with the answer. Then the producers asked a group of fifth graders -- and the majority of them got it. Kids, it seems, have no preformed ideas about who a surgeon should be.  Interestingly, the kids who got it wrong had some out-of-the box answers.  They suggested it might have been the boy's step-dad, or that the boy's parents were BOTH dads. The answer they (who are they anyway?) are looking for is that the surgeon was the boy's MOTHER. Why is it so far of a stretch to imagine that the surgeon was a woman? 

Our daughter was born with a hole in her heart that did not resolve on its own.  She recently had a catheter procedure to close the hole.  As we were preparing her for the hospital visit, we bought her a doctor kit and played lots of hospital.  Family members and an ark of stuffed animals served as patients. Weeks before the surgery, the pediatric cardiologist, with whom we had developed a relationship over Beckett's life, was in a bicycle accident and was unable to perform the surgery. When I told Beckett there would be a different doctor for this visit, Beckett's response was, "Is she nice?"  Her assumption with little to no thought was that the doctor would be a woman.  The surgeon recommended as a replacement was a quirky Australian man.  On reflection, I realized that without any real intention on our part, we had helped craft that assumption.  Beckett's pediatrician and our family general practitioner are women, and so all the doctors she has known in her short life have been female.  Beckett would not be constrained by the riddle's initial gender trick.   I wonder if she might be more stumped by this twist: 
           A young girl and her mother are in a car accident.
           The mother dies at the scene.
           The girl is transported to the hospital and taken immediately into surgery.
           The surgeon walks into the operating room and says,
           "I can't operate on this girl -- she is my daughter!"

           The question:  Who is the surgeon?

When I help Beckett get ready in the morning and I am already in my collar for the day, I think about what her life will be like with no gender limitations concerning the ministry.  While the collar is new for Beckett too, seeing me in my collar simply means I am going to work.  But she knows that not all ministers dress like me and that not all ministers who dress like me work at the same church where Mama T works. She will grow up seeing women, black and white, robed and official, in the pulpit as well as praying, reading, and leading children's stories. 
The question: Who is the minister?

For Beckett, it will not be such a riddle.      


  1. Love reading your posts. You are such an inspiration.

    1. Susie- Thank you for reading and passing it along.

  2. Replies
    1. Courage! David.. there is hope for all of us! I did not meet a woman minister until I was in my twenties and look at me now. We can catch up if we are willing to open up our possibilities and open the doors for others who don't see :) Keep reading :)

  3. I had Nate in for a regular checkup and his doctor, one of four in an all-woman office, asked if it would be okay for a visiting resident to sit in. Nate's jaw nearly dropped to the floor when a friendly young man came in and started asking him questions. When he left, Nate said in astonishment, "There are boy doctors?" I was thrilled beyond the telling of it to be able to reply, "Yes, Nate, boys can be doctors, too!"

    Let's hope he bears that in mind...