Sunday, March 7, 2010

Murder by Numbers

Yes, once again...a small aeon between posts.

I have long joked that the "math-gene" must skip a generation. The father of my children is an immensely intelligent man, with an undergraduate degree in engineering. I am making (this semester, at least) every effort to blow my attempts to wrap up a mechanical engineering degree (well, a 2-year, at least). As everyone obviously knows, if you're not good at/don't like math, DON'T go down the engineering path.

My 10-year old doesn't seem to have much in the way of math skills. As I've written before on this blog, he has oodles of other strengths, some of which are so special and uncommon that they easily supersede this shortfall. However, no one gets through fifth grade by achieving high marks in "intuition" or "sensitivity", so I do share his father's sentiments about his rather lackadaisical approach to the subjects which do not hold his interest, and I can relate to my ex-husband's frustration with some of the grades he's earned lately.

The similarities between us - at least on this subject - end there, however.

I do not consider myself an eminently patient woman. Where my kids are concerned, though, I've surprised myself many times. Likewise, I'm NOT creative but, once again, for them, I can be many things I cannot be for myself alone.

As to the differences between my ex and I: Under NO circumstances do I feel that it's appropriate to tell your middle-school-aged child that - just as a for-instance - he would benefit for a special tutor for retarded people. And, believe me: I know his wrath firsthand. Several years ago, I was having some difficulty with a physics course [I ended up dropping out of school during this semester; I was having a horrible time, and was almost constantly sick. I thought the culprit was stress, but it turned out that I was pregnant. For the eighth time in 6 years. Expecting another miscarriage, I left school - and was branded a "quitter" by my then-husband - but I'm glad I did. Several months later (and 5 weeks early) our healthy, amazingly un-preemie-like daughter was born], and he was merciless. This was calculus-bases physics, and I had gotten straight As in calculus. I was having difficulty setting up the problems, and I don't think I'll soon forget being asked, in the most sardonic, taunting tone, if I had taken "retard" calculus. So...I can relate to my son.

My ex-husband, despite his often vocal denigration of my approach to many things (in case I failed to mention this, he comes from a LONG line of perpetually negative people), asked me to step in and see what I could do. I came up with...Mama's Magic Math Methods. While I won't bore anyone with the details, this is nothing more than some little tricks I developed as a child to
enable me to do math in my head - and I still use them, and so far they seem to be helping.

What I really, really wanted to say to my husband is this: Unfortunately, math has not been kind to our son. For instance, he knows the following equations:

Mommy + Daddy + 2 kids = Happy Family of Four
(Family of four) + Mommy fucking up = Divorce and Loneliness

And he's certainly gotten a tremendous amount of exposure to the concept of diminishing returns, because (Him)/(Daddy's Thoughtless Cruelty) = ZERO. As in, zero self-esteem. And quite possibly (Him)/ in feeling like (1/2)(person).

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