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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Math Geek Mom: The Years Ahead (and Behind)
May 19, 2011 - 7:49pm

The phrase "one-to-one correspondence" is sometimes used in mathematics. This describes, for example, how numbers, often learned as abstract sounds in early childhood, can be, one by one, matched with objects. As parents may realize, this is how we teach a child how to count. One-to-one correspondence also shows up in other places in math, as, for example, when rational numbers may be put into one-to one correspondence with the integers, thus showing that there are a countable number of rational numbers.

I found myself thinking of this concept the other day when I stayed around my daughter’s school long enough to view a small ceremony they had for the eighth graders and the first graders. The eighth graders were preparing to graduate, and the first graders had all been matched with one of them this past year, put in, if your will, a one-to-one correspondence with an older friend. Although my daughter is not in either first or eighth grade, I was moved at the ceremony, as the lives of these young people in transition were celebrated.

It was not long ago that my daughter was in the first grade, and memories of her at that age led me to marvel at the first graders as they read short “thank you” speeches to the eighth graders. I looked at the eighth graders, all dressed up in very adult-looking clothes, and tried to imagine my daughter in only a few years. What would her hair look like? Would she be tall or short? What sense of style would she have? I realized that I did not yet know the person my child would grow into.

And then the principal spoke to them, calling them not "boys and girls" but "young ladies and gentlemen" and I realized that very swift and intense changes were coming in the next few years. Was I ready for them? And what of the changes beyond that, when High School and College awaited her?

My mother is in the midst of cleaning out my grandmother’s house, after her death only a few months ago. As she sifts through boxes and closets of clothes and dressers of treasures, she is both sad and excited at uncovering the remnants of a long life well-lived. She was surprised to find that in one drawer by her bed my grandmother had kept newspaper announcements chronicling the lives of her children and grandchildren. In it were birth announcements, engagement and wedding announcements, as well as slips of newspaper columns testifying to things such as honor rolls and local awards. My mother told me "she kept it all." I don’t know how much my grandmother understood of what they said, but she was driven to keep them, anyhow. Someone who did not know us would get an accurate sense of the lives we lived by sifting through the contents of that drawer, and I hope that my mother keeps some of those pieces of paper that her mother felt were worth saving.

The first graders in this little ceremony presented their eighth grade friends with flowers, singing a cute song through missing teeth. As they did that, I remembered how, in the days after taking my daughter home, I used to hold her in my arms and play another song on the stereo. Amazed at the little person who had joined our life, I would often play Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony as I rocked her, letting "Ode to Joy" fill my home. As unsure as I am of the years to come, I aim to continue celebrating her life and wonder how many mementos of that life I will collect as she grows into someone her principal can someday call a "young lady."


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