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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


Math Geek Mom: Adolescence and Chaos

Lost and found.

May 29, 2014

When the Academy Award winning song “Let it Go” sings about snowflakes as “frozen fractals”, it is calling to mind a mathematical concept closely linked to the idea of “chaos”. I found myself thinking of the idea of chaos this past week, as things seemed to get lost on an almost daily basis, and I felt that I could not seem to regain control over the minutia of my life.

The first event this past week that left me thinking of chaos theory involved my daughter’s search for her “i-pod,” an electronic device that stores music and games and connects her to her friends through “fact time.” Where was it, she frantically asked, and my husband and I joined her in a hurried search of her room. Was it under the bed? No. Was it on her desk? No. Where was it? None of us could find it. It was then that my husband decided to call it. Off in the distance, a faint ring tone could be heard. It was faint because, a floor below,  it was muffled by the swish-swish sound of the washing machine, filled to the brim with clothes I had just loaded. Uh oh, we all thought.

Years ago, while vacationing near the ocean, my parents noticed that the salt shakers on tables at restaurants were filled with not only salt, but also with rice. After some discussion, they concluded that the rice was there to keep the ocean humidity from causing the salt to form clumps. This bit of knowledge proved useful as my husband remembered that storing a wet electronic device in a sealed box of rice would keep it from being ruined. We immediately put the wet device in rice, and let it sit for a while. My daughter was very lucky that it still worked, and she was able to begin using it again in almost no time.

Just a few days later, chaos struck again. This time, it was because my daughter lost an important paper that she was required to turn in to her teacher before final grades could be computed. She believed that she left it in a pile of papers that was almost definitely discarded as my husband and I straightened out the house for guests over Memorial Day weekend. Believing that only the original paper would be accepted, she proceeded to begin sifting through the trash that had not yet been collected. After a few minutes she came into our house in tears, telling me what had happened. I promised to help her, and so began pulling trash out of our garbage can, much of which was left from the picnic of only a few days earlier. There was food that had gone bad, expired ranch dressing and remnants of platters of food that had once been piled high on a plate but was now in tattered shreds. As is often the case with being a mother, I found myself very glad that I have almost no sense of smell.

Since I am short, I had a particular difficulty reaching the trash on the bottom of the tall garbage containers, which was out of reach of my short arms. An intrigued neighbor suggested that I grab my daughter by the ankles and let her sift through the trash at the bottom of the barrel. Of course, I did not take his advice. After not making much progress, I decided that there was a better way, and abandoned the project to e-mail her teacher.

Once the teacher responded to my e-mail, it became clear that the paper my daughter needed was actually one that we had found on my daughter’s desk, even before I started taking the trash apart. My daughter completed the work, and was able to receive a good final grade in the class. I did struggle a bit with the feeling of being a “helicopter parent,” but I also realized that as she progresses through adolescence, such chaos will continue, and that I she will often need my help in dealing with it.

So, dear readers, can you give me any advice as to how to manage to keep a grip on things when schedules become just too full, and too many people depend on you? Do you ever experience days of chaos in the midst of too much to do in the first place?

\I know that there will be days ahead, when she learns to drive and when I find myself waiting up late at night for her to come home, that I will look back fondly on my days of dumpster diving and bobbing for (electronic) Apples. However, for now, I just hope that my life gets more organized, and does so quickly.


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