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Life With Spock, Part 2: When Your Child Is Born an Engineer

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Caleb Kraft
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Re: My son the engineer (chemical engineer)
Caleb Kraft   8/9/2013 12:17:28 PM
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This story is all too familiar. There is a correlation between the propinsity of analytical thought and, well, mental issues. It is said that mensa is the biggest autism support group there is. 

vlsi_guy
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My son the engineer (chemical engineer)
vlsi_guy   8/9/2013 12:10:37 PM
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I was a child of an Electrical Engineer. My dad spent his career in the broadcast industry (TV to you and me). As a child I remember him taking me into the control room (this was in the 1960's) at the TV studio with all the blinking lights, monitors, etc. How could I not grow up to be an engineer after those experiences :-).

Well into my career I was blessed with three healthy children, first a son, then a few years later another son, and a few years later after that, my little princess (a daughter).

I don't think I consciously tried to steer them into STEM related jobs, but my enthusiasm for my career, my constant enjoyment over all things nerdy, science, and technology - yes, it rubbed off on all of them.

While my oldest just graduated with a Bachelors in Biology and wants to continue to med school. And, my youngest is pre-med and in college on a fully paid tuition. It was my middle son who I knew would be an engineer or scientist.

When he just started to walk, I noticed my prized stereo (that I've had since college days) started to sound a little off. Upon investigation, I took the cloth speaker covers off and noticed dozens of tiny little finger sized holes in the speaker cones. All at the exact height of my newly walking son. Yes, I knew his inquisitiveness was going to get him into trouble, and here was a prime example. When he was starting to talk (a year or so later), he was sitting in the family room resting in a pose that looked like the "Thinker" statue from Rodin. I asked him what he was thinking, he said "I'm thinking daddy". And I said, I can see that son, what are you thinking about? He said, "I'm thinking about thinking!". At which point I went, oh boy, that's too deep for me. And also realized he would definitely be an engineer :-)

Yes, a few years onward and he was the one that would burn his name into the side of the house with the magnifying glass, and carve his initials in his sister's nice bedroom furniture, and build models, and spend countless hours with Legos, conext, etc.

He excelled in school, straight A's mostly; it came naturally to him, without studying. Unlike his poor sister and brother who really had to work at it (like me).

In high school he found his calling, Chemistry, he volunteered in the lab, tutored other kids, and consumed everything he could read about the subject.

Sometime around then, my kids lost their mom, I lost my dear wife of 22 years to what's called "late onset schizophrenia". It was a tough road for my kids dealing with a mentally ill and absent mother. They each handled the pain in their own way. I think it has steered my youngest and oldest towards medical careers so they can help others, and possibly better understand what happened to their cherished mom.

This past spring semester, my middle son, the hopefully soon to be chemical engineer seemed more stressed them normal, I could not seem to help him in any way, my suggestions went unheeded.

At the end of the semester we were looking forward to his A's and B's that he had been making at community college and hopefully his acceptance into the very good state college. To our shock, and his honest dismay - he had straight F's.

We were devastated, he was honestly confused over how this could occur, I thought it was a clerical error, a computer glitch. No, he had not been turning in any work; he had failed almost all the tests. He didn't even realize this. My darkest fears that genetics had cursed him with what his mom has come to pass. Well, almost. My dear son has been diagnosed with Severe Anxiety disorder. I can't understand it, I can't explain it. It's like trying to explain the grandeur of the Grand Canyon to someone who has never been there. I only know he seems better these past few months with medication. I can only hope that as he starts back to college in a few weeks we will see that are new normal is OK.

Hug your kids - engineering bound or not, they are so very special.

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