Random equations in the mathematics of life

Posts tagged ‘the Professor’

My 3/5

It’s been way too long since I updated about the people this blog should really be about. The kids.  They’re stuck in this insanely non-traditional family, wandering through life being red-flagged as “different” from the minute they come through the door. I never meant to screw my kids over, but sometimes I think I may have done just that.

The Professor turns 21 on Thursday.  (obligatory “Oh my DOG, I’m old!” comment here) Forget marching to her own “drummer.” This child, from her first days, gathered her own drum circle and danced there. You could join in or not; it made no difference to her. This is the kid who showed up to baseball practice (yes, on the boys’ Little League Team) with her ponytail under her hat.  Having a unisex name was the Professor’s ticket – the boys didn’t know the difference for the first few sessions.  But near the end of the fourth practice, she and another boy collided and her hat went flying. The ponytail flew out and down her back and there was a collective gasp. “A GIRL?!” The Professor stood up, hands on her hips, and spit back, “Yeah, what of it?” One by one the boys pursed their lips as they weighed evidence against evidence, and finally one said, “Well, Jake, she sure knocked you on your butt!” And that was it. Those boys were fiercely protective of her, going so far as to “accidentally” trip an opposing player who made a disparaging remark about their girl.

So it went on. The Professor has blazed her own trail, wherever it took her, caring little for what other people think of it. She will squeal like an elementary kid over a cute animal photo, knock the crap out of you on a taekwondo mat (she has a black belt), stagger into class in sweats and a hoodie, makeup and hair a distant memory, and argue econometric theory with you til the cows come home. The fact that she is 1/4″ under official “Amazon” height infuriates her, she changes the color of the underside of her hair every few weeks, and she’ll break into Irish dance moves anywhere at any time. But make no mistake that while some people might raise an eyebrow and think, “That’s one weird chick!”, she has a loyal cadre of people who are incredibly and fiercely protective of her.  Those same people are cheering her on as she progresses through grad school.

The Artist, from the time of her birth, has had no problem with the fact that she is smarter than you. She just feels bad for your having to adjust to it. Her neurological issues that presented at birth led her doctors to tell us that she would never mainstream into a regular classroom, and she responded by learning to read, complete with inflection and different voices for different characters in stories, by age 4. The Artist, like the Professor, is quite content in the fact that she is so much different than other people. It amuses her greatly when people tell her that she’s weird because her family is supportive and accepting of her no matter what. Though she’ll graduate in May with a degree in Psychology, her name is well earned. The Artist’s true love lies within artistic expression. Her drawings are gorgeous, her sense of color and style are genius, and her innate talent for blowing glass has been evident from her first piece.

Like many other artists, this one struggles with her own demons at times. But, like her sister, those who are deemed worthy to be close to her would do anything for her.  The Artist, like the Professor, inspires loyalty in her loved ones simply by being themselves.

My Ambassador is the one who struggles the most with being different, I think. Women of all ages have fawned over him since day one, and I don’t think it ever gets old for him.  However, this backfires on him when it comes to dating. The Ambassador is a sophomore in college. He is considerate, responsible, well spoken, polite, and funny.  His natural charisma has other college girls buzzing like bees to a flower, riiiight up until they hear those three little words. “I’m only 17.” At that point, they turn tail like criminal from the cops. It’s a lonely existence for a guy like the Ambassador, and while age won’t matter in a few more years, it’s a huge factor for now. No matter how intelligent he is, how sweet he is, how interesting, no young woman is going to be the one dating the “jail bait”.

It’s tough to watch your kid struggle.  It’s even tougher knowing that it does get better with time and age, and that for some things, there is no other recourse than simply that.

I’ll try to add more humor and less rumination to this blog from now on.  Because kids, even at the ages that mine are, are still the best source of humor we have on most days.

Normal…or something like it.

My daughter is a mathematician.  She finds solace in the clarity and exacting ways of numbers, revels in their propensity to be wrong or right.  There is no grey area in mathematics; even in her beloved calculus, there is no ambiguity.  Sadly, in the rest of the world, this simplicity does not exist.  We find subjectivity and perspective to be great advantages at times, but taunting banes at others.  Nowhere is this more true, I think, in the quest to define what is “normal.”

One can easily find a dictionary description to read something like, “that which is generally accepted by the majority.”  However, that in and of itself, leads to more questions.  How much is “generally accepted?”  35%?  57%?  83%?  And what is the majority?  Do I just need to find 10 random people, 6 of whom agree with whatever I’m postulating, and I get to call it “normal?”  I just don’t see it.

My friend, The Writer, and I have had several discussions in which she says she feels like a “freak” because she is not Christian, unmarried and child-free.  She becomes bitter at times, over the fact that she is not seen as “normal.”  But really, I disagree with her assertions.  Christianity is indeed the primary religion practiced here in the US; as of 2008, 76% of American adults labeled themselves as such.  But does that make the other 24% “abnormal?”  The unmarried and child-free status is becoming more and more popular, as young adults see the effects of over-population, especially in a time when the global economy is in the tank.  And really, 40% of children in 2007 were born out of wedlock anyhow.  If that number continues to rise, as it has pretty steadily for several years now, it will soon be the majority.  In that case, does getting knocked up after a frat party and having the kid make you “normal?”  Hmm.

I tend to ponder this kind of stuff when I step back and really look around me.  In my daughter’s dorm this week, a girl on her hall was humiliated in public by a guy who found the action of her kissing a man of another race abhorrent.  In NJ, a young man committed suicide after being “outed” in public by his roommate.  In Georgia, a devout, evangelical Christian pastor has been accused by several different men of being a sexual predator of young men.  In Oregon, a mother went to pick up her 7 and 9 year old daughters from school, but was told they had not been there all day.  Confused, she went home to find that her loving husband had murdered the girls and then killed himself.

What of this is “normal?”  Well, the University where the dorm incident occurred is in the south, where racially subversive behavior is alive and well.  The situation in NJ has been called a “prank.”  The pastor in Georgia?  Part of the American majority.  The Oregonian family?  Married couple, two children.  My point is that while all of these incidences could easily be seen as anomalies, and I sure hope they are, they were still committed by “normal” people.  Or were they?

In my opinion, there really isn’t such a thing as “normal.”  I know that, in my own family and my own life, our way of functioning is often seen as “weird.”  We raise our children to think for themselves, to embrace diversity in all forms, and to have a vastly open mind when approaching new concepts.  My marriage is not to Cinderella’s own Prince Charming, but to my best friend, with whom I still share the bond of actually liking each other, as well as the fact that we have three children.  Other people see this as strange and cannot comprehend why we chose not to divorce when it was clear that our paths had diverged to the point that we weren’t fairy-tale compatible.  For us, it was a choice we made after a lot of time spent talking, crying, fighting, working with a therapist, and finally coming to the conclusion that our life was better as a family than separated.  We’re an anomaly in the “normal” world, but I’ve decided that I like it that way.  From what I’ve seen lately,  the “normal” people are a lot more dangerous.

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