• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


Math Geek Mom: Learning New Things

Responding to talent.

May 19, 2016

Economic theory tells us that each country and person should find what it is that they are best at and focus on doing that. This theory of “comparative advantage” has been on my mind recently as I have watched my daughter excel at things that seem impossible to many around her.

My husband and I are two of the most non-athletic people that my daughter could have chosen to become her parents. He tells the story of playing baseball as a child and standing in the outfield, thinking “Please, God, don’t let the ball come to me.” My one physical activity as a child, ballet, causes my daughter to roll her eyes when I try to pass it off as a “sport.” I maintain that if an activity is difficult enough to land someone in the hospital having surgery and to lead to months spent on crutches getting physical therapy, it deserves such credit. However, both experiences are far from what we see in our daughter, who safely plays almost any sport she can, from soccer to basketball to, most recently, lacrosse.

Parenting her has been an experience that has lead these two non-athletes suddenly become interested in sports. This has unfolded as we have watched our daughter play new sports and have had to learn the rules for each, often with the help of a book with the words “for dummies” in the title. Indeed, one parent advised us to find such a book, and is often heard quoting from one herself as she explains to the other parents on the sidelines the subtle issues involved in trying to score in a sport that none of us grew up being familiar with.

The time at such sports events is often spent with other parents who are more familiar with the sports than we are, and the time together is always enjoyable. I love meeting other parents who are raising children the same age as my daughter, and I listen carefully to the words of wisdom they tend to share. While I make it clear that I am no athlete, I sometimes tell them of the sports heroes that went to my college, and how I once pulled out my college yearbook to convince my daughter that I actually had a link to serious basketball in my younger years. On one page was my picture, “Rosemarie Emanuele” and on the facing page was the professional basketball player that an announcer had just mentioned by name, “Patrick Ewing.” Of course, we both looked much younger in those pictures, but I actually think my daughter was a little impressed that I may have shared classrooms and a cafeteria with an athlete of such stature.

We now spend our weekends traveling to meets and sometimes carpooling with other families. We always bring along a cooler filled to the brim with healthy food and drinks. I enjoy sharing this food with other parents and her teammates, as this sharing reminds me of the days when children in our neighborhood would often have dinner at each other’s homes as warm summer days faded to an end.

Most of the time these experiences are a wonderful way to spend a spring weekend day. However, last week, we found ourselves at a tournament sitting in folding chairs under umbrellas as it snowed all around us. The blanket I brought to keep us warm quickly became soaked, but the snow continued, the weather unaware of the fact that it was mid-May.

As I marvel at my sudden interest in sports, I am aware that, once again, Cleveland’s professional basketball team is in the final playoffs for the Eastern Conference in that sport. Being part of a city that has not won a national title in ANY sport for over fifty years, we often gather, with friends and family, to watch and hope that this will be the year that the city will get to truly celebrate. I recall the celebrations from my college days, when our team regularly won playoff bracket positions, and once won a championship, and I know that it is something that I hope my daughter can experience, at least once in her life. Therefore, once again, I stay up late watching games and cheering that team on with a heartfelt “GO CAVS!”


On a more serious and very sad note, I send my deepest condolences to the friends and family of the passengers on the EgyptAir flight that was lost this week.


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