On Sunday I was in Charlotte, North Carolina with my family. My brother and Will’s brother have both moved to that beautiful city in the last three years, so we have a new tradition of shooting down there for cousin time sometime between Christmas and New Years.
We decided to have lunch at a sports bar type of place on Sunday, which meant that my rabid Eagles and Redskins fans could see a few minutes of their last game till September. In fact, since the restaurant had Direct TV, every game was on, depending on which direction you looked. Although my boys seemed more than capable of processing all the games on different screens — calling out players names from various teams and their amazing feats without hesitation — it was definitely sensory overload for me.
I was visiting with my brother and my niece and nephew, and catching maybe one of twenty plays. Yet this was the setting for a mathematical epiphany for Nate. Oddly, in the midst of all that he said, “Nine times nine is eighty-one. Eight times ten is eighty. If you do that, it will always be one less.”
My response, “Wait, what?”
“Like five times five is twenty-five. And four times six is twenty-four, one less.”
“Mmmh,” I said, not sure that it was universally true, and far more interested in the fact that my sensory overload level left him bandwidth to attempt to deduce anything at all.
But as I laid in bed that night I came back to his assertion. In the quiet I could do it in my head, and of course Nate’s theorem is verifiable. He said that x² – 1 = (x -1)*(x+1). If you foil that out, and I haven’t foiled in my head in quite a number of years, if ever, you get x² – 1x +1x -1, which is the same as x² – 1. Yes, no matter what number you use, it is one less just as Nate said. I am biased. I am his mother, but I think it’s freaky. He’s eight. We were in a sports bar and he was engrossed in about five different NFL games, reciting statistics on every player that flashed upon the screen. How on earth did he come up with that?
So here’s the question: what do I do with him? He’s got some serious abilities — strange abilities, to remember facts and figures in Rain Man fashion, and to recognize patterns that most would miss, but the question is how do I push him? Or do I push him?
This is a question that comes up a lot. Not with oddities like Nate’s theorem, but just in the course of mothering conversation. Do I make my child do x? Do I let them quit? How do I make them do things I know are good for them (practice piano, work on math facts, clean their room, put away laundry, drink water, eat veggies) even when they don’t want to. There is not a simple answer. Kids are different. Lord, do I know that. Parenting is hard. Failures are certain. What are we to do?
Well, I have one answer, and only one answer: PRAY! I’ve been meaning to blog through Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline for over a month now, but my re-read and re-post has been slow. His chapter on prayer is full of wisdom and application. Please read it. But I’ll leave you with a few quotes. “All who have walked with God have viewed prayer as the main business of their lives” (emphasis mine). Wow. I cannot say that prayer is the main business of my life, can you? And as for our children, Foster says that “Your own children can and should be changed through your prayers.” Yes, it’s my responsibility to feed my boys and get them to school and take them to practice and to push in some areas and offer grace in others, but the main business of my life as their mother is to pray for them. May 2012 be a year of fervent prayer for Will, Nate and Sam, and for all of our children!