One of the concepts I teach in my Quantitative Reasoning class is the idea of “Exponential Growth.” Such growth, where a variable grows by a fixed percent, is found in such things as population growth and the growth of money earning interest. I found myself thinking of this recently as I watch my daughter grow at a rate that seems to be exponential, outgrowing clothes almost before they can be worn and threatening to soon pass me by in terms of height. I am thrilled to see her turning into a healthy young lady, but I have to pause as I realize that, as she grows, she is exposed to aspects of life that I would prefer to shield her from.
I found myself talking with some of my fellow mothers recently, discussing the details of raising a healthy daughter in the world we live in, and as we talked, I found myself wanting to hold the infant I
knew (it seems) only a few days ago. I have clear memories of her lying in her crib, talking in a language only she understood to the stuffed animals hanging from a mobile above her head. As she talked and laughed with them, she kicked her legs and flailed her arms. She sometimes got very excited she talked and kicked more strongly, almost as if she could hear the animals talking back to her. While she was vulnerable in many ways, as only an infant can be, that vulnerability was different, and, in retrospect, seems less dangerous now. Today, I now find myself wanting to protect my daughter from the forces in the world that do not respect the very cool and interesting person she is, but want to treat her as if she can only find value in her looks and her body shape. To my surprise, I have already had to tell her that she and her friends should not be concerned about whether they are too skinny or too fat, that what matters is being healthy. And that is where one mother changed the whole conversation by bringing up some of the music that is played on the radio today.
I hardly ever listen to popular radio, but apparently my daughter knows some of the music that is often played there, and I was surprised to hear some of the words from those songs. I learned of one mother who allows her fourth grade daughter to believe that a popular song is singing “We are Dumb,” a translation I told my daughter about as I tried to grab a “teachable moment” as I explained to her that anyone who has friends who get high in the bathroom is, indeed, dumb. Another mother I know told her beautiful kindergartner that another popular song was singing “I’m Sassy and I Know It,” which is not exactly the title. I did not know about the video that goes with that song until a fellow mother told me about it, even bringing it up on You Tube for a moment as I stood with a shocked, suburban mom look on my face until she mercifully turned it off. No wonder my daughter was surprised when she asked me what my favorite song was, and I replied “Ode to Joy”. I wonder if the songs on the radio today even deserve to be thought of as being the same type of art as those produced by Beethoven.
There are other aspects of life that I wish I could protect my daughter from, and one appeared the other day when she was reading a book that talked about Hitler and the Holocaust. She asked me about it, and I explained the history to her, wishing I could just change the subject as I would have only a few years ago. However, she should know about this dark chapter of human history, as she should also know of other dark chapters, including American racism and other genocides. I am sure that she will learn about those soon enough.
I also pray that she does not have to learn of yet difficult aspect of life all too soon, as my sister battles cancer in an attempt to stay alive a little longer. We all hope she will live a long life, but also realize that the Cholangiocarcinoma (also known as “bile duct cancer”) that is tormenting her body will probably some day claim that life. But we still hope that day will be in the future, a long time into the future. In the mean time, we work to celebrate each day she lives, and hope that those days turn into weeks and then into months that turn into years and that those years perhaps someday turn into decades. After all, time passes so silently and so quickly, a lesson I have learned from the experience of being a mother.