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Balancing Equations   

    You need to recalculate on a daily basis, and you wonder if those mathematicians were ever mothers

When your daughter asks for help with math homework, you shake your head dubiously.

You graduated school well before the era of Common Core, and you never were very good at math. Also, if you’re completely honest with yourself, you’ve got zero interest in solving math problems when you have your own daily equations to solve.

Of course, you don’t say that. You sit down near your daughter, flip through a math book that talks French, and try to get through her homework, together with all unresolved problems that you haven’t yet cracked.

Like the Helping situation. If Kid A wants to sweep, then Kid B wants to sweep. If Kid B wants to clear the table, then Kid A wants to clear the table. Which leaves you with sulking Kid C, who claims he’s always left with the nerdiest jobs.

And when Kid C’s shoes go flying through the air during his outburst, you wonder what the practical application is. Do you quietly collect his shoes and place them near his bed? Or do you choose option B and let him deal with the natural consequence of a missing shoe during tomorrow’s morning mayhem. These calculations don’t have that clear cut A +B = C formula. You’re left confused.

Is reminding your kids seven times to do their homework making them more responsible? Are you supposed to collect your kids’ laundry from all over the house, if you’ve repeatedly told them that laundry in the hamper is what gets washed? Do you buy a Rubik’s Cube for your daughter because everyone in her class has one? You don’t even know where all these mental computations come from, but you know they need to be solved… or else.

The day doesn’t get easier, with the tantrums that continue on and on and on, sort of like pi. “Can it please quiet down here?” you plead. But of course not.

You’d think you could handle all these formulas; you went to school, seminary… you’re an adult! But you need to recalculate on a daily basis, and you wonder if those mathematicians were ever mothers.

Take mothers who deal with morning madness. Your two-year-old yanks at your skirt for a bottle, your five-year-old wants a hardboiled egg, and your nine-year-old is searching for the aforementioned missing shoe. Now, which kid gets put into parentheses, which kid gets your absolute attention, and why isn’t dear Aunt Sally there to help you?

Then there are always the greater and less than issues. Kid A got more ice cream, Kid B got more sprinkles. They take their cones and stand them up, side by side. They squint and measure and calculate. There’s bickering and yelling until one ice cream inevitably tips and falls and then there’s tears and promises, and ice cream dripping all over the mopped floor. You feel like you’re flunking math again.

But occasionally, you actually do get the answer right.

Like the bedtime scenario: When 11-year-old was nine years old she went to sleep at eight thirty, but now that nine-year-old is nine years old, why is her bedtime eight forty-five? You never were good at common denominators, and as your blood pressure continues to rise, you decide to do some active listening. Blessedly enough, after a two-minute rant, 11-year-old scampers off and gets ready for bed.

Or the Fruit Roll-Ups Situation.  How is it that you only see eight packets of Fruit Roll-Ups when the box comes with ten rolls? Clarity comes in the form of crumpled wrappers sticking out from under your son’s pillow. You cleverly resolve not to say a word. Instead, you collect all candy from the pantry and hide it deep in your bedroom closet, together with your secret stash of chocolate.

You are supermom; your daughter’s math homework can’t make you lose your cool. Now when your daughter gets flustered and throws a crumpled math sheet across the dining room, you commiserate with her, fix her a milkshake, and tell her that she only has to try her best. Math is complicated. Trying is what counts.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 880)

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