• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


Math Geek Mom: Discovering Talents

Ready for the playoffs.

February 5, 2015

When I entered college, I entered as a physics major. I thought that studying physics would be the best way to apply my love of math to the study of science. I didn’t know that much of the same could be said about Economics, so it would take me a few years to declare that subject as my major. I thought of this career detour recently as I watched my daughter find her own passion.

When my daughter was about three years old, I enrolled her in dancing lessons. I had spent most of my girlhood taking dancing lessons, and hoped that my beautiful daughter could also someday learn to spin on the tips of her toes, as I had once done. She took the lessons, but never did fall in love with it. I found myself around “stage mothers” who assured me that their children just LOVED taking dancing lessons, and realized that I could not say the same. When I watched her on the stage obviously just going through the motions, there was none of the love of studying dance that I remembered for myself. At over fifty years old, my muscles still remember the dance they did to “Waltz of the Flowers” 40 years ago. No, that love was obviously not there for my daughter.

Then, the summer she was five year old, we visited with my family in Connecticut. While we were visiting, my daughter saw a basketball hoop, grabbed a basketball, and, all of four feet high (if that), she threw the ball into the basket. My mother and sister, “Jo” immediately turned to me and said “Rosemarie, forget the ballet lessons. Sign her up for basketball.” Opportunities to play basketball were years away, but when she did become eligible, she began to play the sport. By then, dancing lessons were a thing of the past, even though I still think that my tall, strong daughter could have made an amazing ballerina.

This past season has been a fun one for her, as she has shown herself to be an important member of a team that has struggled at times. The child who once had difficulty with spoken instructions was easily taking direction yelled at her from the sidelines, and each game showed her making some baskets. She would often steal the ball and run full speed down the court, leaving the opposing team in the dust and often making a basket at the other end. And then there was the day she made a “three point shot” from far away from the basket, a shot that became the topic of much conversation the next week in school. Watching the confident smile that lights up her face as she takes control of the basket is amazing, and I realize that one of my jobs as a parent is to help her discover more of her hidden talents. This is also a part of my job as a professor. Does anyone have any ideas on how to help a child or student do that?

This weekend, my daughter’s team is in the playoffs, in a position that might best be described as the “wild card team.” No one expects them to win, but, here in Cleveland, we are used to rooting for underdogs, so anything could happen. I do expect to see her radiant smile as she plays her heart out. Whether they win or lose is almost beside the point.

That summer that my family alerted me to her undiscovered talent, we all knew that my mother was living on borrowed time. None of us, however, suspected that my sister’s days were also limited. Since they lived several hundred miles from my home, even though they discovered her talent, neither my mother nor sister ever got to see my daughter actually play basketball. When I think of that, I remember a song from my childhood called “The Blind Man in the Bleachers.” The last line of the song always tugs at my heart; “It was the first time that my father’s seen me play.”

 I hope you enjoy the game, mom and Jo!


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