Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Lesson in Mathematical Patience

{Written in 2009 when Corey was 22 yrs and Chelsea was 11}

Some who read my blog have commented how happy my children seem, they can tell it's so from the smiles. I do put pictures of my children smiling mainly because I'm a proud Mother and I think my children are pretty great...fantastic, in fact. And, yes, they do smile...often.
But blogs are like a magazine cover. They don't show the whole picture.

The picture above speaks volumes and there are no smiles.
I have never claimed to be the perfect mother. That would be totally irresponsible of me and, since some of my children and certain relatives read this blog, they would take me up to task on that declaration.

I have also never claimed to be able to teach math. God forbid! Math drives me bananas. I've always suffered math annoyance and I'm afraid my children think I'm annoyed with them when I'm trying to explain it. I'm not. I'm annoyed with all those little numbers and figures who scatter in numerous directions, won't follow my orderly train of thought, and never do what I want them to do. That's what annoys me.

My children even say I yell!

But I don't.

I may raise my voice, yes...sometimes...but I don't yell. Anyway, I'm not raising my voice at them. I'm raising it at all those squirrely little numbers. Geesh, why do some people have to take things so personally?
I admire the mothers who are patience-made-over (I know a few), who speak in gentle tones, whose voices reinforce, recharge, and revere their young students. I wish to God! that He had blessed me with that gift. He didn't. But something happened last night that reinforced, recharge, and revered ME and reminded me that God is always in control and, in the mist of our weakness and lack of grace, His presence manifolds.
Last night, I tried explaining a math problem to my eleven-year-old daughter, but I didn't want to. I was doing the laundry.

Math versus Laundry? Hands-down. Laundry wins.
My daughter wasn't getting it and I was annoyed again with myself for lack of explaining-skills. All those rambling numbers scurried around the paper like undisciplined delinquents. It was past nine o'clock at night, thus giving merit to the school's theory of teaching math in the early morning. Nine o'clock! Why in the world were we still doing schoolwork? I wanted to go put my feet up and read a book. I wanted to relax.
I took my load of soft, bleach-tinted towels and, with the grace of Scarlett O'Hara, I flounced out of the room. At least I'd like to think I flounced out of the room, but I'm pretty sure I wasn't that graceful. And Scarlett had no grace anyway.

Like Scarlett, I wanted to dissolve in a pitiful heap at the bottom of my stairs and cry into the bounty of freshly washed towels. Only, I don't have stairs in my house. Easier still was claiming this heroine's stance, casting my eyes heavenward and proclaiming that "Tomorrow is other day!" Shake the dust off your feet and get on with what you were doing.

Folding laundry. Yeah, that works for me.

But my poor child still didn't have a clue how to solve the problem and she was pitiful. I knew if I tried explaining it, I would be accused of "yelling" at her even though I was only "raising my voice" at all those unruly little numbers.

My college advisor warned me over twenty years ago that I had a mental block against math. Twenty-years later I'd say she's right. Give me a book to read aloud, a picnic basket with paints and brushes, a field trip to the crawfish farm, a bunch of girls and a kitchen (I do love the kitchen), a ticket to the museum, or a classroom of thirty high schoolers for Louisiana History. I do just fine. I do the dance beautifully. That's my fancy. That's my style. That's my forte.

Ask me to explain a math problem is equal to putting a fly on vinager paper. It's not pretty. In fact, I stink.

But let's get back to last night. It might be that "birds of a feather flock together" or that Corey, the older brother, remembered the stress and anxiety of Mom trying to explain math. He remembered the flouncing and the lifting of my voice. He remembered the inhaling of my breath when the math book was laid open.

It's not something I want my children to remember but God takes my weakness and turns it into someone else's strength.

As I returned from my laundry duty, Corey never said a word but went to the table where his bereaved little sister sat, pencil poised in hand. He gently, patiently explained those math problems to her. He gently and patiently worked through every last problem with her until she understood it.

Did I fail?

I could say what a terrible mother I am. What a loser I am. But I won't. Afterall, I'm Scarlett O'Hara.

The fact is God has blessed me with some really great children. And, as you can see, it isn't anything I've done. It was through my weakness that my son stepped up to the plate.

I prefer to look at the moment and evaluate what was learned. It seems my son learned something more than just math. Afterall, math is math. I didn't learn to make change with money until I was in my thirties. So much for public school teaching me math. When I had to, I've claimed it.

Corey learned something mightier than math. He learned that some things, like gentleness and patience, have more substance than figures. They get us where we need to go while making the trip a whole lot nicer.

God used my human weakness and sinful nature to teach my son in twenty years what took me forty years to learn:

  • to instruct the ignorant
  • to counsel the doubtful
  • to bear wrong problems patiently
  • to comfort the afflicted
Those works of mercy are of infinite worth and immeasureable beauty in the Kingdom of Heaven and both my children will reap the benefits and claim the rewards.

And so will I.

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