Monday, March 15, 2010

Four Cups for Kate

Kate and I made banana bread last weekend. "Kate, the recipe calls for 2 cups of flour and I have only a 1/2 cup measuring cup, how many of these will I need?", holding out the measuring cup. She considered this, started to say two, and then stopped herself, "four". Kate understands math, it's a part of her, in the way she thinks and how she approaches the world. Unlike her mother who struggled with math from a very early age, Kate thinks in a very linear manner, and understands numbers and order in a way that I never will.

Discovering this was helped along by her father's similar view of the world, and Kate's want to organize her books, by subject matter, when she was three. Jack sorts CDs first by subject, then alphabetically by artist. Books, my domain, are organized, not really at all.

The maddening thing about having a daughter who excels at math is my tendency to couch her abilities in the things that she doesn't do as well. Not wanting to buy into, I suppose, the idea that my children's mental prowess is a reflection of me, of us, and the effort we have put forth, I tend to diminish, rather than expound upon, her natural aptitudes. It doesn't help that she loves math, and I find balancing a checkbook intimidating.

But to take this away from her is wrong, it's her view of the world, not my interpretation. And she's smart, like she is tall or blue eyed; for reasons not understood smart carries more with it than a simple understanding of multiplication. In the ever, and oddly, competitive world of parenting, smart children are used as weaponry; line up and shoot them at each other.

What I find equally maddening is the parents who push their children, who use flash cards and test prep to inflate scores, seeking acceptance into an accelerated school or program, which may not be the right fit for their child. The last thing I want to do is put my daughter in a place she doesn't belong and risk her chances of failure. She does well, we want to challenge her and engage her but not set her up to fall.

The lesson we all learn is that we each have strengths, and weaknesses. And when you have twins who are so completely different, it's important to not compare, but to highlight what each does well. And to understand that I should not be the go to person for math help after kindergarten.

My poor parents, best that parenting wasn't the competitive sport that it is now.

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