It’s all about the numbers.
The new crow’s foot that appears when I laugh at myself; age creeping.
The scale that I try not to look at; particularly the BMI numbers.
The test scores that arrive in the mail; API’s.
The bottom line of the bank statements as the end of the month grows near.
The inches in height that my boys keep reaching; above mine.
Dates and milestones, births and deaths.
They whirl about me like the matrix, counting the minutes, the hours, the days. They are concrete, or are they? I am getting the dissertation from the hubs, finite integers vs. logarithms, infinity. Why do computer scientists use 16, 32, 64, 128, etc.? My head began to spin when I received my answer. Suffice to say, this is something I don’t really need to know. Garbage IN, Garbage OUT. GIGO.
I am clearing mental space and must constantly remind myself of my by-laws. I was already tested, yesterday and it was my eldest that told me to be duck-like; letting the criticism roll off my back as I inwardly seethed. I need to let things go. Getting angry and even is not where I want to tread. Three sets of eyes watch my every move. They know what my by-laws are. I am, truly, accountable to my sons.
I feel like I’ve hit the curving upward slope in parenting. The sweet spot.
The numbers are supposed to validate us; to categorize. To place us to see how we compare. I wish I could ignore them but I know they are important. Now colleges are allowing students to take post-SATs; to grade their students for prospective employers as they enter into the workplace. People are placed by grades, test scores? But what about their characters? Their ability to work with a team? A strong work ethic? Will the numbers always define who we are?
If I got botox shots or a face lift to eliminate the crow’s feet (because appearance does matter) will I have more opportunities? If I looked lean and trim; put-together? If I had straight A’s and perfect test scores? A large savings account with lots of items to show for it? To be eternally young?
My middle son stood before a store; bags in hand, to snap this shot in his Lucky Me shirt. As a child this opportunity NEVER presented itself to me. He is at the stage where he is noticing brand names and whined and begged for a pair of skinny jeans.
But Mom, it says they’re on sale?
He began to do the math; surprising me with his convincing pitch. I couldn’t refute the numbers, it was a steal. He is good with numbers. But reason returned. This son won’t be wearing these jeans, anytime soon; temps in the high 90s. In a month or so he will probably be taller than myself. And so I refused him.
The hubs shared with me, this morning, his bedtime conversation with the boys. One asked, why do we have to be perfect? I thought the numbers didn’t matter, Dad? He was encouraging their work ethic; to strive. To give one’s best work. He had to explain why numbers mattered.
It all comes down to one thing really. Money. You can afford plastic surgery, enhancements, shots. To look young. To dress well. The way you present and appear shows the rest of the world that you have worth. The high test scores give our schools money because other families will want to send their children there to be competitive; boosting our enrollment and daily attendance allocation. It gets you in the better colleges. Allows you scholarships. Success is defined by the toys we have; the bottom line of our bank accounts.
“He who dies with the most toys wins.” ~ Malcolm Forbes
We sat in the conference room and stared across at one another. Twenty three years ago I would have never guessed that the guy I sat near, in calculus, would be sitting across from me having a numbers dissertation and parenting pow-wow. It is these years between us that makes our union secure; valid. To answer our sons’ questions we need to know the answers for ourselves.
The hubs will always remember this mathematical function. During an exam he had broken down the problems but had not integrated this expression to its lowest form. It was the bane of his existence. He failed that exam; a mere point earned. He had all of the answers right and when he approached the professor, he scathingly looked at his exam. He would’ve had all of the questions correct had he reduced his integrals to e^x. It is something we relate to our boys, time and time again.
Show your work. Put in the time. Reduce your answers to its most simplest form. This formula isn’t something we share with them about mathematics. This is the formula we want them to remember. For life.
It’s all about perception.
Numbers, large and finite, appear grand. But they do not define who I am; who they are. It is a struggle to battle them, day after day. But in the end I need to look within and have them not define me. Numbers are infinite, constantly changing. We can continue to grow, in depth, in character, by changing a variable. Life is not a straight line. In changing your ways of thinking you can grow exponentially. We need to reduce the numbers of life to the simplest of terms.
I will not lie. The numbers still define me. But I am making a concerted effort, each and every day, to reduce them to the lowest common denominator. My boys watch my every move. The digits will always be there but instead of looking at the glass as half-empty; I must count the numbers to create a fuller cup. And so I must type it; in black and white. To make it discrete. It is then that I can be accountable. To remember:
The crow’s feet around my eyes show that I can still laugh and be happy. To make fun of myself.
I enjoy the tastes and smells of a meal; to sit around a table with family and friends. Hospitality. I am fortunate I have people to share this with.
The test scores and grades show my boys are on the upward slope of the learning scale. They do not need to be perfect; as long as they love to learn.
The bottom line does not need to be high. It needs to be enough. As a vendor always reminds us; the more material we buy the more parts we manufacture.
The height of my sons should not be a reminder that I am losing their youth. It means they are healthy and growing to be strong men.
The birthdays, the upcoming anniversary? I am grateful to be healthy and alive, to see each new year. To gain wisdom. For the relationships I’ve forged; both old and new. It is a testament that the hubs and I have survived the wear and tear on our relationship. We’re beating the marital statistics. I am manipulating the numbers to work in our favor.
And so I count my blessings as my sons pose before me; trying on accessories instead of choosing notebooks and school supplies. Nothing lasts forever. But for now, I will take on life, in the simplest of terms. Faith. Family. Health. Friendship. No number can quantify these things. They are in abundance; e^x. Exponential.