Thursday, January 15, 2009

Use It or Lose It

One day while I was driving my daughter to school, she was musing about her AP History class. “Now, Ackbar was a Mughal, right?” she said. “I thought he was the admiral from Return of the Jedi,” I said. She then started rambling about Ottomans. I thought of furniture. I was a darn good student when I was in school several eons ago, but I’ve lost it all. Can’t remember a thing. Of course, even my agile-brained young high-schooler can’t always come up with the right bit of information at the right time. In one of those tip-of-the-tongue moments, she was fishing for a word she wanted. “What’s that word? Barbarians? Ombudsmen?” Finally, triumphantly, she came up with it: cannibals. Don’t ask me how we got on a subject where “cannibals” was a word pertinent to the conversation.

I can still help my third-grader with his math, but get much beyond that and I’m lost. If you need help with fifth or sixth grade math, I'll have to send you to an older sibling. If you are the older sibling and get math-flummoxed, you'll need to talk to Dad. He’s an MIT guy and people with advanced degrees from the hallowed halls of the beaver aren’t intimidated by, you know, fractions and stuff.

By the way, if you ever want to cheer on an MIT team, here’s one of their chants:

I'm a Beaver, you're a Beaver, we are Beavers all.
And when we get together, we do the Beaver call.
E to the U du dx,
E to the X dx.
Cosine, secant, tangent, sine, 3.14159.
Integral radical mu dv
Slipstick, sliderule, MIT.
Go Tech!

Gets your blood pumping, doesn’t it?

I was a history major in college, but I’ve forgotten it all. Every last exploration, war, treaty, and squirelly little international incident is gone with the wind. The only Manifest Destiny I know anything about is the way that dirty socks, toys and school papers are destined to spread from the east side of the house to the west by sundown each day. But in the years since graduation, I have learned lots of new things. Like the ins and outs of motherhood. How to sneak the last ice cream bar without getting busted by the kids. How to write novels. And though I've forgotten my math, I can definitely help my kids edit their essays!

I think I'll make a new year's--or new life's!--resolution to never stop learning new things--even if I do forget a few old things along the way.

6 comments:

Annette Lyon said...

My kids are getting there too quickly. With piano and musical theory, they've already left me in the dust. They ask for help, and I can't--intervals and augmented what?!

Heather B. Moore said...

I wish I could remember what I learned in school. I don't even try to help my son in his math anymore. And my son helps my daughter

Gale Sears said...

Very funny and true, Miss Stephanie. I enjoyed your insight. I especially loved the MIT chant. I'm going to memorize it so if it ever comes up in Trivial Pursuit I'll have it down!
Gale

Jennie said...

I enjoyed your blog, Stephanie. That's what I love about the ladies I work with in the temple; they're mostly fifties on up, some even in their late eighties and they're still learning new things and enjoying it.

Anna Jones Butimore said...

My husband is an accoutant, and I always call on him to help the 8-year-old with her Maths homework. But English homework is all mine! I know exactly what you mean. But we can't all be brilliant at everything, can we?

Cheri J. Crane said...

Great blog, Stephanie. =D And I agree, 'tis a challenge to help out with homework these days. Should I be insulted that my posterity, who are all in college now, never ask for my help anymore?