Monday, December 05, 2005

More Math Challenges? and so on

This one really threw me. Tonight Sean told me he "wanted more of those Challenges." He was talking about his algebra book. As Clare says, having daughters is wonderful but having sons is just a guarantee of unexpectedness. Now the context: this morning Sean needed to start Key to Algebra #3 and it was Monday, so he was being cranky. He said, "Why do I need this anyway?" I gave him a spiel about how algebra is in all sorts of things, it's a way of structuring perceived patterns or proportions, and I gave him some examples about as lame as that description. He looked at me dubiously.

Then it turned out the first page of his workbook gave him a "Challenge" where he could solve the problems any way he wanted. Questions like: "If Suzy can ride her bike at 12 miles an hour and Jeff can ride his at 15 miles an hour, and he gives her an hour's head start, when will he catch up?" Sean complained heartily as he made his way through the first couple, and then stopped complaining and started just asking questions or requiring affirmative responses to his theories.

But I had no advance knowledge at ALL of what he would ask tonight. Weird. Five minutes before that he had made Clare laugh out loud by coming out of the bathroom looking strange and when I asked him what was wrong, telling me "I brushed my teeth too hard!"

Paddy can sing Phantom of the Opera AND Les Miserables AND Veggietales. Now does this inoculate him against falling into a teenage abyss, or not? Wouldn't it be nice to have that kind of guarantee? (still thinking about all that parenting stuff).

As I pondered it today, maybe it is the melancholy/phlegmatic passiveness coming out, but my best solution was the Psalms:

Yahweh reigns! Let the earth rejoice!
Let the multitude of islands be glad!
Clouds and darkness are around him.
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
A fire goes before him,and burns up his adversaries on every side.
His lightning lights up the world.
The earth sees, and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax at the presence of Yahweh,
at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.
The heavens declare his righteousness.
All the peoples have seen his glory.

In his homily, Msr. G said (truly, I think) that "Father, help me," is the Christian's cry. The mistake Adam and Eve made, he said, was to try to do it themselves. That struck me. Not that we are supposed to just sit around. That's not the message there in those Psalms at all. But all our contrivances are contrivances. Our parenting needs to be of the heart; a sharing, a pouring out, an undergoing. I have no idea what goes wrong in those cases that are just SO wrong. I tremble, because I am inadequate. But that's the point. Perhaps our society lets us build up too many buffers against our own inadequacy. We have lots of margins and failsafes, "cheat codes". GKC when asked "what's wrong with the world", said "I am." Yep.

John Donne said, "Don't ask for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." Um, yep again. Those families who I am determined not to mention by name, those kids, are tied to me with a thread that tugs right now, and HURTS. The reason we are so determined to find reasons those AREN'T our kids and COULDN'T be is perhaps because in a way they ARE. It hurts to think about it. One child lost, one family ruined, it ripples outward. Those things aren't new though. They happened to Adam, to Israel, to David, to Solomon, to Jesus if you count Judas. Job said he would offer sacrifices just in case one of his children had offended God.

Moving from Math Challenges to parenting, which is quite typical. I don't even know how to pull that together. Well, how about this. Sean was born on January 22, 1993, the 20th anniversary of Roe v Wade. That night he went into crisis and might have died if the doctors hadn't been so on the ball. They worked with skill to preserve that tiny struggling life even as Clinton signed the FOCA.

All the teens of today are peers of the Roe v Wade dead innocents. When they look out into society, they look into the face of a callous, arbitrary, self-centered killer. Some of them imitate that killer's face.

The Psalms quiet and subdue my heart. Evil is not new.

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