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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Math Geek Mom: Elasticity
August 18, 2011 - 7:36pm

There is a concept used in calculus and economics called “elasticity.” This idea measures the percent change in one variable as another variable experiences a one percent change. This is often used to talk about, for example, demand for a product, demand that might change for many reasons, as when the price of a product changes, or when the price of a close substitute changes, or even when the income of consumers change. I thought of this recently as I realized that my own “apron strings” were not very elastic, and that I was finding it very hard to let my daughter take risks that I knew, intellectually, were good for her. My salvation in this dilemma is my husband, who encourages her to take risks, even if they involve gliding over a theme park on a zip line as mommy stands below with her heart in her throat.

We promised our daughter that we would take her to a favorite park if she did well in school last year, and when she did, we found ourselves at a theme park that had installed, since our last visit, a “zip” line. As I needed to learn, these are wires hung several stories high that allow a guest to hang from them and slide down them, from one corner of the park to the other. At each corner, the rider stops and walks up a flight of stairs, so they can begin again until they travel around the entire perimeter of the park. The minute we arrived and my daughter saw the zip line, with other guests gliding along on it, she decided she wanted to try it. I immediately said “no”, but my husband convinced me that she would be fine trying it. He even offered to go with her. I agreed, stating firmly that I would NOT be going.

My daughter looked so little climbing up that first tower, and all I could think of was the time, only yesterday (wasn’t it?) when she spent hours trying to learn how to climb up stairs. Now she was climbing up a tower that would release her to zip across the park. And there was my husband; the person I had promised to be with until “death do us part”, taking her with him. Would they be safe? Of course they were, and I waved at them from below as they glided by.

But the experience of seeing the two most important people in my life fly by above me led me to think of the many things that I will want to protect my daughter from as she grows up. There will be many things to frighten me about her dating and driving and going away to college, but I don’t really want to keep her from these experiences even though they can lead to dangerous situations. I know that my husband will provide a alternative voice to mine and will make sure that I don’t try to protect her by denying her normal growing up experiences, and for that I am thankful.

I remember how, when my daughter was a toddler, my husband would react to her (many) tumbles by telling her to “brush it off “ and then encourage her to get up and get going again, while my own instinct was to swoop in and pick her up and cuddle her. I now know that in many ways, having a strong man encouraging her to take risks is more important to a little girl than is having an overprotective mother. And I am infinitely grateful for the presence of a strong man who believes in her and thinks she can do whatever she sets her mind to. May she, thanks to him, always have the courage to fly though life!


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