Life Lessons and Laces

This summer has been particularly challenging for my teenage daughter. She spent it working hard on studies to complete freshman year of high school. The most difficult for her was Algebra. Having a mom who is basically a mathematics idiot certainly did not help.

By misfortune that resulted in a positive, her dad was laid off from his job in DC, thus, he was able to spend the last month tutoring her. With advanced degrees in mathematics and physics, he literally is a rocket scientist. Who better to serve as her teacher than dear dad?

In the final countdown of preparing for her last exam, they crammed several chapters into hours of review yesterday. By this point, they had each had enough…enough of math, enough studying, and enough of each other. After fielding a few calls and texts from each of the exasperated duo of teacher and pupil, I was up to my limit as well and let them both know it in not the most gentle way.

Once home and able to observe the lesson firsthand, and all of their mutual frustration about how she was repeatedly skipping steps leading to the wrong solution, a thought struck me. I remembered teaching her to tie her shoes. She refused to wear the kind with Velcro straps or buckles and insisted on laces because she was “a big girl.”  We both repeatedly and with loving care taught her over and over again how to hold the laces in her stubby fingers using sing-songs and cute anecdotes to form a bow. This recalcitrant teenager had once been that precious, little, angel child. This  obstinate father, had once been the guy who spent hours teaching her the simplest of life’s tasks with joy.

Algebra was her new set of velcro-less shoes and without the shiny buckles. With all her strength of spirit, independence, appearance, intelligence, and confidence, we had forgotten in some ways, she is still a little person. Her fingers are less stubby and instead of stickers and marker smears, they are now adorned by metallic blue nail polish.

I reminded her dad that just as he did so gingerly with her five year-old version, he needed to tenderly teach the fifteen year-old version how to tie her laces using equations and polynomials.

Although the years have truly passed so quickly, we somehow lost sight of the  patience we once had with her. No doubt part of this is her constant reminder to us that she’s “a big girl.” I can only imagine that there will be many more of these tutoring lessons as life goes by. In the future, hopefully when she doesn’t tie the laces tight enough and they come untied, or when she ties them without thinking and they end up in knots, we will remember our roles. Then proceed with tolerance, love and probably a few concentrated breathing techniques until her laces form well tied bows.


For My Daughter

In your eyes, I see the future, not in that wispy, fanciful way of others but a calm,
supposed belief that all you know and all you will see melts into one being
so perfectly and completely that it isn’t what may be as much as what will be.
You often have a distant look as if you can see the day after next, skipping past tomorrow.
You retreat into yourself for that is more comfortable and familiar than opening up to others.
Yet in those moments…the few chances you give them to see you,
your wit and charm are realized much more than you or they anticipated.
At times I feel like I have not been your mother as much as an observer-
lucky enough to be there, watching as you grew in knowledge and height.
You never really needed me as much as wanted me by your side, just in case.
Or maybe it was more that you knew I needed to be by your side.
It seems, I never had to convince you that you could
because you were already so confident that you would.
You are beautiful.
You speak with a soul more experienced than your age implies.
Even so, you move forward with caution…
never with the reckless disregard that youth often acts.
You are bright and I respect your intelligence that seems to come so effortlessly.
Just as you are close to the depths of great emotion,

I sense you closing yourself off, hesitantly taking a step back.
I wish for you to touch the sky, swim in every sea,
breathe from thin mountain air and explore underground tunnels.
I wish for you to know love…to be loved and give love…
so much so that oxygen feels removed from your lungs when your lover is gone.
Not because I wish for you pain, but I wish for you understanding.
I wish for you to never fear the night and always cherish morning light.
I wish for you to allow yourself to feel the world around you, deeply-
to comprehend compassion as much as scientific reasoning.
I wish for you to never doubt the unmistakable, incredible being that is
the sensational, fantastic, brilliant- You.

Wherever you may go, whether near or far,

whatever you touch, create or live through,

I will be with you, in love and in spirit.