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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Math Geek Mom: Lessons for (and from) my daughter
July 15, 2010 - 8:06pm

Last week, the greater Cleveland area let out a collective groan as we learned that our star basketball player would be moving from the local team. As I watched him and several other star players congregate in another team, I was reminded of the game “Monopoly." As you may remember, this game is won by amassing market power and then charging fellow players high prices for landing on one’s property. A similar approach is taken by monopolies in the marketplace, where market power forces consumers to pay higher prices for goods than would be otherwise expected. While the collection of excellent basketball players in one team is not exactly a monopoly, it is certainly an assembly of talent, if not market power, in one place. As Cleveland recoiled from the very public “dumping” it received, I wondered what lessons could come out of this for my daughter, who was just beginning to be aware of “the Cavs”. And so I thought of several lessons I hope she will learn from this.

First of all, I hope that she learns to respect others’ decisions and to forgive. It was not all that long ago when I was personally rejected by talented young men on a regular basis, on the way to finding and marrying the one who was right for me. And some day, she may experience the same rejection herself, and I hope that she knows that she can survive such rejection and pick up the pieces and move on. On this front, my daughter is already miles ahead of most of us in this town. When I told her what happened, she asked “but we can still cheer for him, right?” Of course she can, but not when he plays against the Cavaliers!

I hope that she learns that one must act upon one’s knowledge of oneself when making decisions about what to do with one’s life and talents and body. She is a beautiful little girl who I am sure will grow up into a lovely young lady ,and I hope that she learns from this that decisions about how one uses one’s body must be made based on your own values and priorities, and not just on the wishes of those around you.

I hope that she learns to think seriously about what goals she sets for herself and what lengths she will go to go meet them. If ever a city deserved a championship team, it is Cleveland, Ohio. However, by saying mean things that are so nasty that they draw national attention, we are rejecting the things that make Cleveland such a livable and lovable city. We are a city with a low cost of living, excellent arts and cultural resources, a rich history of philanthropy and a populace that is a collection of diverse ethnic backgrounds combined with a mix up just enough of a taste of the East Coast (we were once part of Connecticut) and good, old fashioned Midwestern values. Yes, winning a championship would be wonderful. But when I recall waking up the day after my school won the NCAA basketball finals in 1984 when I was in college, I can assure you that, aside from some extra garbage on campus and some very tired classmates, things were pretty much back to normal the next day, and definitely back to normal in only a few weeks. Do we really want to sell out what makes us great for some title that assures us that we ARE great?

Finally, the most difficult lesson to come from this experience may be, thanks to comments by Jesse Jackson on the matter, the one that finally teaches my daughter about our country’s “original sin” of racism. She has the blessing of growing up with a President as well as some relatives, including her youngest cousin whom she adores, who trace their heritage to Africa, and so is generally unaware of the horrible history our country has in this matter. I know that I need to talk to her about this, but so far have been unable to find the correct words. However, when I see her giggling with her youngest cousin as they share dolls and play in playgrounds, I wonder if the real lesson to be taught might come from them, and not us.

Years ago, in my travels through various Jesuit colleges, I found a book called “Laws of Heaven” written by an ex-Jesuit named Michael Gallagher. In it, he chronicles the lives and efforts of people who use civil disobedience to help make the world a better place. One of the people described is a priest from Cleveland named Bob Begin, known as “The Rebel Priest.” Earlier this week, when many people were writing letters to the paper airing their anger, Bob Begin wrote an entirely different letter. In it he noted that his grandmother would have been ashamed at how we were all acting, and he went on to wish LeBron James well. This priest, with no children on his own, notes “what are we teaching our children?”


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