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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Math Geek Mom: Summer Vacations, Yesterday and Today
June 9, 2011 - 8:11pm

There is a concept in math called the “well ordering property” that states that every nonempty set of integers has a least element. If we were to list, for example, the positive odd integers, we could start with the first odd integer, one, and go on from there. Although seemingly obvious, this concept is used to prove some important theorems. It is an idea that I thought of as I realized that the first of a series of days known as “summer vacation” began this past week.

I went to pick up my daughter from the last day of school and found myself in an impromptu “honor guard” with a group of other parents who were also there to pick up their children. As the bell rang for the last day this school year, we stood back from the driveway to give the buses room to exit. The buses drove through honking their horns, filled with cheering students while we moms and dads on the sides cheered for them as they went off to summers that we can only imagine.

Or remember. There is so much hope in the beginning of summer, and some of that hope comes from our own memories of summers from years past. Although the chatter among mothers that day was about summer camps that our children would attend, I came from the generation before summer camps. I usually spent time with my grandmother, so, aside from one week of summer camp when I was about seven, I missed out on that experience.

At my grandmother’s, there were few children around for me to play with. So, instead of playing with neighborhood children, I spent time with other children. Laura Ingles Wilder and Nancy Drew became my summer companions. There was also my favorite, Encyclopedia Brown, about whom I found far too few books to read. Little did I know that someday in the future my husband would be an attorney who sifted through real-life mysteries in defense of those who would otherwise have no representation. Those summers spent with books were also a preview to my current summers, ones which revolve around research and writing.

My daughter, however, usually attends summer camp, if only for a few days a week. I remember that my initial attempts to get work done with a very small child in tow were met with little success. I began to laugh at the parenting books that suggested one way to handle balancing having a child and a career simultaneously was to start a home business. I decided that, for me, a home business with a toddler to watch (and pull down from all the things they tended to climb on) would have been doomed. On my own home front, I eventually hired a teenager from our neighborhood to entertain her while I worked one summer. I soon realized that my daughter’s time would be better spent in a structured environment, possibly one that includes swimming lessons, and began sending her to camp a few days a week. I look forward to continuing our tradition of going to the public pool after camp gets out each day.

My daughter came home that last day of school with a packet of work that she needs to turn in to her teacher next year. So much for my idea that we will not have to struggle over homework for a while; I will soon be supervising book reports and math problems as if school was still in session!

Despite the work that she has to do, I know that she is looking forward to these days ahead. They will include a chance to stay up late, possibly until it actually gets dark. I will probably stop trying to shoo away the ice cream truck, and may occasionally let her buy a treat from it. They will present a chance to climb on the monkey bars with her neighborhood friends without having to worry about what tomorrow requires of her. And they might even involve time spent with characters from books, perhaps the very ones I read when I was her age. These lazy, hazy days will pass more quickly than any of us want, but in the mean time will provide the stuff of memories. I hope that these weeks bring fond memories for all of my readers, too.

It is with great joy that I quote the buses on their way out on the last day of school; “honk, honk!”



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