Test Day

Nora stood silently, staring through the glass window into the other room. Patrick sat there on the floor, studying his chubby baby hands in great detail. He proceeded to taste them, too. He continued chewing on his hands until baby drool was running down his arms and dripping from his elbows.

Dr. Graham entered quietly from a side door, closing it just as quietly behind him while holding a clipboard in one hand. Nora turned and smiled nervously.

“How’s he doing?”

“Oh, he’s fine,” replied the doctor, “We’re just letting him get comfortable with the room before starting the test.”

Nora stared at the floor. She had been dreading this day for exactly one year – since the day Patrick was born. Of course, she had known her whole life that it was her duty to bear at least one child, but what she didn’t expect – what she couldn’t possibly have known in advance – was how much she would love that child. Over the past year, Patrick had become her everything. Now, she was terrified at the thought of losing him.

She glanced through the window again. Patrick was being so good. He hadn’t cried once. He just
studied the room with that look of wonder on his face, every experience was a marvel to him. A tear welled up and rolled down her cheek. Nora wiped it away quickly, feeling embarrassed. Did other mothers feel this horrible sense of dread on test day?

Dr. Graham’s voice took on an uncharacteristically grave tone, “Your choice of paternal DNA would suggest you’re hoping for a builder.”

Nora nodded her head, “I’m an engineer,” she stated.“Excellent. Let’s find out then, shall we?” said Dr. Graham, returning to his soothing voice. Nora nodded her head again, barely able to speak, staring at Patrick more intently now. In the other room, Patrick had noticed the three tiny doors along one wall. He instinctively knew they would eventually open, but he jumped with a start and began to cry when it happened.

“That’s normal,” Dr. Graham whispered to Nora. “Ninety percent of children cry when the doors
open. He’ll calm down.”

And he did. Shiny silver trays slid out of the open doors, each bearing a toy. These captured Patrick’s curiosity, and he studied them.

Nora couldn’t breathe. Please, Patrick… pick the right one.

Patrick leaned forward. He had only taken his first upright steps last month, and he still preferred crawling in order to get around quickly. He crawled forward.

“Here we go…” stated Dr. Graham.Nora closed her eyes, she couldn’t watch.

Almost immediately, Dr. Graham uttered what could only be described as a “hoot”. Nora’s eyes
flew open. Patrick sat next to the second silver tray, holding a small, handheld computer. The building blocks and the box of dirt with a little green sprout in it were left untouched on trays 1 and 3.

Nora’s heart sank. Dr. Graham placed his hand gently on her shoulder.

“I’ll give you a minute to gather yourself,” he said. “Then we’ll have the separation ceremony
and you’ll go to meet your new child.”Nora turned to face the doctor. “You already know who it is?”“We’ve had the child here for almost two months. She’s been the only builder in a long time.

Patrick will go to a lovely mother who writes code for the Pentagon. He’ll be raised in a perfect home for his interests. And you’re going to love Sheila.”

Nora slowly calmed herself after Dr. Graham departed. She had known this might happen. If Patrick was a programmer, then he needed to be with other programmers. This little girl, Sheila, was a builder, and Nora would raise her to be the best builder she could be!

Squaring up her shoulders and holding back a flood of tears, Nora opened the door to go and say goodbye to her son, and hello to her new daughter.


The science article that inspired this story: What Should We Be Teaching Young Children? via NPR 13.7 cosmos & culture