I’m No Math Genius…Shhhh…Don’t Tell My Daughter…

5 years ago

My grandfather was a math genius. He was in the Navy during World War II, and rumor has it, he could calculate where to aim the torpedoes faster in his head than they could on paper. This skill meant he was an invaluable asset, and he was taken on submarine mission after submarine mission after submarine mission – something that eventually led to his death.

I say this, because how amazing is that to have in your family tree? I also reference it, because this math gene that I mentioned apparently skipped me entirely. Either that or it is submerged so deeply within me that it would take a super-secret submarine mission to retrieve it. Whatever the case, math was neither my favorite subject, nor was it my best…by a long shot.

My lack of academic prowess in this area was a totally irrelevant factor in my adult life, since my career path of choice was that of editing/writing/public relations. And then I had kids. When they were babies, everything was still okay, but since my daughter started kindergarten and started taking an interest in math (which I am obviously trying to encourage), it has resurfaced.

She’s only in kindergarten is no doubt what you’re thinking…how bad can it be? Every day – without fail – my daughter randomly asks me things like, “Mommy, what is nine hundred and thirty-four plus four hundred and fifty-six?” or “What is six hundred and three minus four hundred and ten?”

My instinct is to say, “Holy mother of a rat’s behind – I don’t know. I was always terrible at math.” But as we all know, I can’t say that…for various reasons. So I fumble along with something like, “Wow, honey! That is a GREAT question! Let mommy find a pen and some paper, and we’ll figure it out together.” And we do. But the reality is that math is difficult for me. Not only that, I hate doing it. I am the Barbie stereotype of the non-math-doing female – only without the long hair, perfect body, and slutty clothes…unless there is a frazzled/frumpy Barbie…then I’m totally there. But I digress…

People always talk about the different things they weren’t expecting with parenthood. They talk about the sleep deprivation and the lack of free time and so on and so forth. But can we talk for a moment about how we didn’t expect to have to revisit all of those subjects we supposedly learned a million years ago…that we thought we would never have to do again? Because I don’t know about you, but when I finished my last math class in graduate school, I was over the moon. I’ll never have to do THAT again, I thought foolishly. But now I do have to do it all over again. I have to use my math brain every day, and Lord help me when we move into more complex math concepts.

In the spirit of good parenting, I am flexing my math brain and putting on an excited and enthusiastic face every time I get a new math equation thrown at me. Some day when my daughter is old enough to appreciate it, I will tell her that her grandfather was a math genius. I will tell her about how he was a naval war hero. I will tell her that she, too, is capable of being the valedictorian of her class. And she is.

She is also capable of finding her own talents. Mine wasn’t math – and anyone who knows me will tell you it wasn’t science either. As a parent, that’s not the message I want to convey to her right now. But one day I will. Because it’s important for our kids to know that everyone has their own talents. Not everyone can plot out in their head where to aim torpedoes and not everyone can paint a glorious work of art. Sadly, I can do neither. Everyone brings their own gifts to the party – and if she realizes that and learns to tap into her own talents, then I’ll consider myself a parenting success…despite the fact that my instinct when I hear things like, “How many quarters are in \$10,300?” is to curse like a sailor…or is that submariner? Maybe those genes didn’t skip me entirely after all…

And what about you – are there any subjects you are being forced to relive that you didn’t much care for the first time around?

Shannon Hembree is a stay-at-home mom with a kindergartner and twin toddlers. She is already laughing at the thought of those people who will accidentally stumble on the Mamas Against Drama website by Googling things like “math” and “submarines.” Just like the ones who found it by Googling “ass mommy,” they’re in for quite a shock. Shannon is also the co-founder of Mamas Against Drama. You can follow her on Twitter @shannon1hembree and Mamas Against Drama @mamasagnstdrama.

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