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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Math Geek Mom: Wisdom from the Neighborhood
November 11, 2010 - 7:53pm

One way that economists commonly use statistics is to do “forecasting”, to take what is known about today and to use it to predict what will happen tomorrow. I usually use statistics in ways that don’t involve forecasting in the future, but instead to test for relationships in data from the present. Still, there are times I wish I could forecast the future and know how things will look years from now. For example, I wished I could have such a “crystal ball” the other day. I felt this way as I made my way home from an evening meeting, listening to a program on the radio where people call in with stories, asking the host to play a song to fit that story. I know it is corny, but I enjoy it, anyway.

This particular night a young girl called in, asking for a song for her mother. The girl was about 13 years old, and she was spending the evening hanging out with her mom, listening to the show. I thought of my own daughter, and was immediately wistful, hoping that I could spend such time with her when she reaches that age. She is a few years from being in the double digits, and so the teenage years still seem far off. However, I realize that the foundation I lay today will influence the relationship I have with her in a few years.

I thought of such things a few weeks ago, as I Trick-or Treated with my daughter and a few neighborhood children we picked up along the way. It is interesting to spend time with my child in a capacity that does not involve making her food, getting her ready for school, or making sure she gets to or from school. I sometimes refer to the day-to-day activities of being a parent as “parental janitorial duties”, because they don’t include many activities that involve building relationships, but, rather, duties that involve the basic upkeep of the child. Halloween, however, allowed me to see her in a different light, as the beautiful and really cool child she is.

She was thrilled to bounce around the neighborhood, picking up candy along the way, sometimes proclaiming, in the midst of skipping, to everyone and to no one, “Happy Halloween!” I suspect that someone at school had reminded them about which houses she was allowed to visit, because she announced several times to her companions that “we can’t go to that house, because the light is off.” She was particularly helpful to the younger children, and made sure that one little girl who is about three years old made it safely up and down the stairs on the front stoops of houses they visited. One little boy was too afraid to go up to a house that had some rather frightening decorations outside, and so she assured him that she would go for him. She calmly processed through smoke and past someone dressed up as a mummy (who jumped out at her) to politely ask for two pieces of candy, one for her and one for her little friend. Only later did she tell me that she was scared, but not as scared as her friend who was with us, who was so shocked by the sudden movement in a pile of leaves as they passed by that she ran up to me to give me a hug. A week later my daughter asked me how they made those leaves move, just as we walked by. I had to admit that I didn’t know, although the scientist in me has some ideas, many of which include remote control devices that work either automatically or from inside the house. I told her I doubted that anyone was laying in the leaves for any length of time on what was a rather cool evening in Ohio.

I wonder how many more Halloweens she will want her mother to accompany her around the neighborhood, and hope that there are many more occasions to relax and enjoy life with her, before she becomes too cool to be seen with me, or too busy to have time to spend with me. It is probably too much to expect that she will want to dedicate a song to me some day, but I hope that when she is a teenager, she will still want to spend time with me, and allow me to spend time with her. Because, if I brought home anything on Halloween, it was an added appreciation for the amazing little girl who I am privileged to have call me “mom.”


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