The Free Press, Mankato, MN

January 18, 2014

Murray: Why do I hate math? It's too real


The Mankato Free Press

---- — It’s always dangerous when I decide to do math.

Ask anyone. Math isn’t exactly “in my wheelhouse.”

Ever since my daughter was in about the fourth grade, I ceased being able to offer any meaningful help to her as she did her math homework, what with all the fractions and percentages and algorithms. It’s not that I can’t do it. It’s more that at an early age I realized I simply don’t like how brutally true math can be. So I think my brain, being more attuned to abstracts and approximations, led me away from it at every possible turn.

The result: I suck at it.

Well, either way, I was faced recently with some pretty sobering math to do, the kind every parent will eventually do, whether it’s early in their children’s lives or, like me, later. Much later.

Many years ago, I imagine there was a day when I sat in an armchair with an infant daughter in my arms and I pondered the far, far distant future. Chances are many of you have done the same. And when you did this, you probably did some quick figuring and realized that the little bundle of joy you hold in your arms won’t be there forever, but she will be there for a long time.

How long?

About 18 years if you do your job right and prepare them to take off to conquer the world with their hearts brave and intellects sharp. That’s when they leave the house, head off to college or some other endeavor.

And as the years go on, you might revisit that math you did when that child lay asleep, angelic and silent, in your arms. You go through all those milestones and tears and accomplishments and, along each step, realize you’re getting closer to that day when they’re about to leave. But it never really hits you because, you know, there are still years of fun to be had between now and the time they shove off on their own.

Eventually, though, that number gets smaller and smaller. And soon it gets so small that it only takes a few seconds to think out how the immediate future is going to play out.

For me that moment came a few weeks ago. In a night of brutal realization, a night with tears, a night when I wondered when the hell did this kid in pigtails suddenly become a young woman buried in ACT test dates, clarinet solos and college application concerns?

I realized that, at some point, we crossed a line with her that can never be uncrossed. There was a point when her life went from being focused on having fun and just getting good grades, to packing every day with meaning and making sure the grades are good enough for what comes next: college.

And I’m stoked for that. Really. I can’t wait to watch her soar off into the next great adventure. But a part of me still kind of wishes that, instead of 18 months, we still had 18 years with her.

When a child is gone for a while, the absence of their energy is felt. And as any parent knows, that’s the energy that keeps you going.

So now you know why I hate math. It’s too honest. Maybe if I’d done the math a little earlier, maybe I’d have done more to make the most of my time. Then again, if I had, I’d probably have spent too much time worrying about getting the right answer, and not enough time enjoying the journey.

Eighteen months. Looks like I’ve got some living to do before she shoves off. Then again, she isn’t the only kid in the house. We still got the boy for several more years.

Robb Murray can be reached at rmurray@mankatofreepress.com or 344-6386.