If you were a fly on the wall at my house, you'd be sure to hear your share of fussing, complaining and whining. Maybe even a slammed door or two.

But enough about me.

In the pressure cooker that's parenting, I have exploded more than once. And it's harder to clean up than spaghetti night with a toddler.

So after years spent indulging in fruitless self-flogging, I finally let go of my obsession with getting it all 'just right.' I confess...I'm not a perfect parent.

Whew. That felt good.

Now, when my son saunters in with his 42nd tardy of the school year, I let it go. When I hear myself hollering "Whatever!" at my teenage daughter, I move on.

Having it all together is overrated anyway.

And I've determined not to waste God's grace. I'll never get it just right. You won't, either. So read on, sister. If you see a little of yourself in me, I hope it helps to know that you're not alone. Nope. If you're a mom, face it. You're never, ever alone.

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Monday, October 4, 2010

Do the Math

It is happening – again.

When I slammed closed my Algebra II textbook for the last time nearly a quarter century ago (yikes, I’m old), I vowed never to put myself in any situation in life where I’d be required to determine the value of ‘x’ or ‘y’ or any letter of the alphabet, for that matter.

In fact, what made Algebra so eternally frustrating for me as a teenager was that it was hard to imagine the insane reasons such situations even existed.

Here’s an equation for ya:
Algebra(Life) = Pointless x 2.

Yet, useless it seemed then, Algebra wielded a great deal of power over my life. Aside from the countless hours it devoured that I can never recover, Algebra significantly narrowed my career path prospects. I ruthlessly eliminated consideration of any vocation that might require me to determine the value of an unknown variable.

And I’m thrilled to report that over the past 25 years, I have been wildly successful in avoiding all things equation-related.

Until now.
When my daughter starting bringing home homework with familiar, yet terrifying, terms like "quadrilateral" and "algebraic fraction" and "simple equation" (an oxymoron if I ever heard one). Like the villain that just won’t die at the end of the horror movie, Algebra has come back to terrorize me.

And I believe my math misery has multiplied exponentially as Molly and I sit, night after night, trying to make sense of it all. After a few problems I am frustrated squared.

Last week, she sat at the counter graphing algebraic equations.

Molly: It’s supposed to be a dinosaur when I’m done.

Me: Seriously?

Molly: Seriously. Please tell me, when in life, Mom, will I be required to graph a dinosaur?

Girl after my own heart.

But I’ve been explaining to Molly that sometimes in life you just have to “Do the Math.” You may not understand it or like it, but you have to do it in order to reach your ultimate goal. And there just might be something important to be gained in the process.

My natural inclination as a parent is to rescue my kids from pain and frustration. To make things easy, happy and pleasant for them. Because I love them.

But, if I’m honest, it’s not all about them. I sometimes want to save them from failure and give in to their demands for freedom or escape from hard work for other, more self-serving reasons. It protects my image and/or helps me avoid conflict and disappointing them (both of which I hate) which makes me feel better – for the moment. But it only postpones the pain and battles – for them and me – to another day.

Ouch. I don’t like to admit that about myself.

As parents, we can’t focus on our own comfort level – or our children’s. As a neighbor, who is raising three teens of his own, recently reminded me, our efforts should center on “the end result … We’re working toward the end result."

I’m grateful I have a Teacher who knows all the variables and equations of life and parenting far better than I do. And Who has the power to weave everything – even Algebra – together for their good.

I used to wander off until you disciplined me; but now I closely follow your word.
Psalm 119:67 (NLT)


  1. I dread having homework issues because I just don't know how I'll respond.

    My husband is an engineer and certified math head. I'm sure he'll royally mess up all attempts at simple equations.

    It's tough to keep that end goal in mind, but an ever so important point.

  2. lalalala(this is me plugging my hears and not listening!)lalalalal....

    Between you and me...I took college algebra three times...an not because I liked it so much I kept going back for more.

    Thankfully I married a valedictorian and he will be on homework duty after 4th grade. :)

  3. Ugh... math...

    And yet, you're right... You're always so right... *sigh*

    I'm dreading the day.

  4. I definitely have some pride issues and not wanting to show I am flawed at times. Thankfully, math was one of my good points. :O)

  5. Even algebra? I guess He knows what He's doing...LOL

  6. Well I am thankful that Lord blessed me with enuf sense to call a tutor when the algebra thing hit. Not only was my daughter in those early teen hormonal years, she was also of the idea that her parents didn't have a clue. Rather than fighting it, I had a friend who's daughter was a math wiz and even tho she told my daughter the same thing we did, she accepted it better because it came from someone else! Saved my algebra-hating life! :)

  7. I can so relate to this post. I still don't get algebra - even the 2nd and 3rd time around with my kids. Thank goodness my son gets it (must take after his father). It was one of those subjects that I apologized to my daughters for being no help whatsoever and praying and hoping they did well and sighed with relief when a passing grade showed up on the report card.

  8. One of the things I loved about majoring in Communications in college was that we only had to endure 2 semesters of Math. I HATED that subject with a passion and thought, like you did, that I would avoid having to determine the value of 'x' and 'y'. Now I realize that with my daughter growing up (thank goodness she's only about to turn 1 in a few days) I'll be confronted with the subject again!

    I think I'll do the same as Amy who commented before me and look for a tutor when the time comes. LOL.

  9. LOL - I went through that with my kids and then I went through that more when I earned my AA in real estate in my 50s! AND NOW I have been helping with that with the GRANDKIDS! Math, it's the "gift" that keeps on giving - and won't quit - it's WORSE than the Energizer Bunny!

    I loved Paula's points - we have used tutors at various times over the last few decades and if you get a good one, they are such a blessing. I've even traded typing for tutoring or babysitting, so if the budget is tight it can still be an option.

    Hmmmm, at this rate, does this mean we might have to help with math in our 70s with the great-grandkids - YIKES! :) :) :)

  10. Ahhhhh, yes, the dreaded Algebra. I am not so proud to admit I completely avoided the dreaded algebraic functions and indeed the entire Match Department in college by taking Logic: The Study of Arguments to fulfill my Math credits.

    I also managed to produce a son who is gifted in Math (don't ask, I don't know) and he has been helping his siblings (older and younger) for many years. :D


  11. I completely relate to what you say about protecting yourself, as well as your kids. Hard to admit. Ick.

    As for math, my husband will have to be on call for that homework. My skills end at the basics. Algebra always eluded me, too, and I spent an entire semester of college statistics sitting on the professor's office floor, trying to wrap my head around the subject.

  12. Love. Your. Blog. Love it.

    Hate. Algebra.

    Enough of that... anyhoo, I'm in a Bible Study at church and last week a lady said something that this post reminded me of. We were talking about protecting our children from insecurities (we're reading the Beth Moore book, So Long Insecurity) and she said something like, "We can't totally protect our kids, nor should we want to, b/c it's those trials in life that bring us closer to the Lord." This was a huge relief for me! (I have a 3mo old and a 2yr old - I'm just starting out!) I already try to make sure they're "happy" all of the time and that's not the way life is! Nor should it be b/c then we might start to think we don't need Jesus!!

    Another great post, Melinda!!! :D

  13. Is is so hard to not want to swoop in and rescue them. I struggle with this all the time and I see now that my son is getting older how much I need to take a step back and let him figure these things out. But...also..I am DREADING the homework...especially Math!

    Good Luck Melinda, with Math, your daughter...with it all! Thanks for the great advice too :)


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