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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Math Geek Mom: "It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood…"
August 5, 2010 - 7:36pm

There is a concept in mathematics that shows up in calculus and geometry, the concept of a "neighborhood." Like its real life counterpart, it is a designation of all points within a certain distance from a particular point. That distance is often represented with a Greek letter, such as “epsilon” or “delta," and these play important roles in the definition of the concept of a limit, which is the cornerstone of calculus. I thought of these concepts recently as I realized how lucky I am to live in the (geographic) neighborhood in which our house is located.

I admit that we stumbled upon our neighborhood by chance, because we liked the house that we ended up buying that was in this neighborhood. When the former owners told us about a neighborhood association, it was one added feature, but not of primary significance to us at the time. Back then, we were looking for a house that would be a welcoming place to bring a child home to, and the big trees and presence of sidewalks said more to us about a family-friendly place than did the association of people in the neighborhood who planned activities and threw parties. It didn’t take us long, however, to realize that the camaraderie among the neighbors in this development was a true selling point for living there.

Soon after moving in, we attended a neighborhood block party and met many of the people who live near us. Most of the original owners of the homes had retired or moved to Florida, and a whole new generation of owners was planting themselves there, many with young children. It was immediately clear that any child we would welcome into our home would be welcomed by the whole neighborhood, which was the case. When we brought our daughter home, neighbors stopped by with gifts and food and extended offers to babysit. My daughter still uses a blanket that one neighbor gave her as a tiny infant, and takes particular interest in the life of one teenage girl who used to help me by entertaining her while I worked from home during the summer when she was very young, but also very active.

Although we have no pets of our own, my daughter got to know all of the dogs in the neighborhood, saying hello to them by name as their owners walked them each evening. When one neighborhood dog died when she was about 3, I think I cried almost as much as the owner, as I knew that my daughter would miss the dog tremendously.

Almost immediately, my daughter and the other children in the neighborhood discovered each other- the little boy across the street and the girl whose yard was separated from ours by only a low fence. Soon that fence was being hopped over on a daily basis as she and the siblings who eventually joined her come over almost daily to play on our swing set. A bachelor friend of my husband’s had given it to us when he purchased a house with the swings in the back yard. He was so anxious to remove it from his “bachelor pad” that he brought it over in a trailer and set it up for us himself. My daughter became so proficient in mastering the monkey bars on it that I often say it is too bad there is no Olympic sport in it, as she could, I am sure, earn a medal in “Monkey Bars”. Instead, a neighborhood team formed for t-Ball, coached and managed by people in the neighborhood.

One day, I saw a woman who lived across from us getting a small boy about the same age as my daughter into her car. I stopped to ask her how it was going with her young child, and we immediately bonded over being moms of small children. That little boy and my daughter became best of friends almost immediately, and when the family took him to Disney World, he told his relatives there that what he really wanted to do the next day was play with my daughter.

And now the neighborhood has something new to celebrate, as that woman, who currently has two beautiful (and fun) boys, is expecting another child. Soon our neighborhood, and my daughter, will be welcoming a new little girl. If I could talk to her, as I will someday soon, I would tell her that she not only chose a wonderful family, but that she also chose a really cool neighborhood into which to be born.


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