There is a concept in math called “one to one correspondence” in which each member of one set is matched with a member of another set. For a function, this means that every value of “x” leads to a unique value of “y”, therefore allowing for the creation of an inverse function, in which each “y” is mapped to a unique “x”. This concept is one that plays an important role in Calculus and is one that I found myself thinking of the other day as I splashed with my daughter in the public pool after I picked her up from camp.
These days, going to the pool with my daughter is usually a group event, at least for her. Most days, I bring her along with at least one friend from the neighborhood, and upon arriving, she and her friend or friends run off to swim, often leaving me alone swimming laps or sitting under a tree, thinking of Economics, Math, or both. On days that we go alone, she almost always finds a friend there to play with, again leaving me alone to breathe in the peaceful silence. This one day, however, her neighborhood friends were not available, and there were no friends at the pool for her to play with. And so, she did what I know in my heart she will probably not do many more times; she asked me to play with her. We borrowed a water basketball and set about half playing, half splashing.
She is quite an accomplished athlete, so the pairing was never fair to begin with. I would throw the ball and it would miss, while she could easily make the baskets. I protested that the sun was in my eyes, which it was, but even that excuse was not very convincing after a streak of missed baskets. Once again, parenting had humbled me, but that was ok. I had a wonderful evening, and was sad to have to leave to do one of the other things that I am not very good at; cook dinner.
That evening was oppressively hot, and the pool, while warm, was a welcome relief from the heat. The surface rippled as people moved, making patterns on the surface that looked like the shell of a turtle .We played a game she learned playing basketball on land called “all around,” in which we both took turns trying to make a basket from various angles. Mostly, I missed, but she was proficient at making the baskets.
As we played, I was often struck by not just her skill but also her beauty, as she bounced in and out of the water, with the sunlight highlighting her hair and her youthful face smiling from ear to ear. I was never that beautiful, not that athletic, but I realized that she will never be as good at taking standardized tests as I am. In the long run, I realize which skills should mean more in real life, and bemoaned an academic landscape where being able to fill in bubbles on a “Scranton” is valued so much more than having control over one’s muscles.
Although there were no friends for her to play with that day, we did see several people she knew in the pool. She waved to Anna, who was leaving with her camp, and saw Joe and his brother and mom as they made their way out. His mom is a teacher in an inner city school in Cleveland, and one of the amazing people that my daughter has indirectly brought into my life. I was sad that I could not stop and talk to her for a while. Once again, I marveled at my daughter’s life. Only a few years ago, she was too shy to say hello to many people she met out in public, and would often hide behind me and my husband when she did see someone we knew. That is long gone, and now finds herself reminding me to say hello to people she sees who are walking or driving by.
On that oppressively hot day, the pool was a relief, even if the water was only a few degrees cooler than the air around us. However, the time spent with my daughter left me with a wonderful feeling, one that I will return to over and over again, as I drink of the sweet memory of a late spring evening when my daughter asked me to play with her, one on one.
Read more by
Opinions on Inside Higher Ed
Inside Higher Ed’s Blog U
What Others Are Reading