Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Like Mother, Like Father

Since becoming a mother, I have found that I am more and more like my own mother each and every day.  I would say this is a good thing in many ways; my husband may not necessarily agree.  For example-- I make up songs to describe just about anything and everything going on. (My kids love this- as long as we are at home and not in front of friends-- my husband does not.)  I bop my brakes to the oldies station.  (My kids love this; the cars behind me do not.)  Of course, the oldies I bop to are not the same oldies my mom bopped to; well, sometimes they are.  

I scream at my children when I'm angry-- yes, Mom, I blame this on you-and I yell up the stairs.  Neither my husband nor my kids like this at all.  To be honest, I don't really like it either.  I'd love to be the kind of mom who smiles patiently while her children destroy the house, but my doctor won't give me a prescription strong enough to create that. And I cry at the drop of a hat-- got this from my mom, definitely.  If I'm happy, I cry.  If I'm upset at the 5:00 news, I cry.  If I'm angry, I cry.  My kids are more concerned by this than my husband.  He just rolls his eyes.  I like to adopt things.  I like to read.  I like to write.   I like to buy presents for other people.  (All traits gathered from my mother, who is single-handedly keeping stationary stores and mail-order catalogs in business.)  I like to correct other people's grammar.  I like to make up cute little games with birth dates.  (Had Micah cooperated and been born on March 27, I would have had my children born on 21, 23, 25, and 27.  She messed it up, but at least I have a child born in each season.... that's close.  Yes, I got this from my mother. Along with constant love, affection, hugs, kisses, and I love yous dropping all over the house.  I'm glad I got that from my mother.  My children take that as normal; my husband is getting used to it and better at it.  

But yesterday, I discovered that I was also like my father.  And, like my mother, choked up about it. Yesterday, I said the following words to my daughter: "That's not an experiment, that's a demonstration."  And as she began to whine- something she got from her mother- I was filled with memories of those years my father guided us through our mandatory science experiments- forcing us to come up with our own purpose, our own hypothesis, our variables and constants- because an experiment must prove one thing against another.  You can't just show something- despite what the overwhelming number of other students did.  

As I began to explain all this to my daughter, bragging about my repeat blue ribbons and describing in detail the different experiments I did each year and what the results were (yes, fuzzy caterpillars DO predict the weather), interspersed with phrases such as "stop rolling your eyes", "yes, you DO need to know this", and "I don't care if your teacher doesn't care if it's a real experiment or not-- I care"-- I realized that when it came to science projects, I was going to be just like my father.  

The teacher wants you to pour bleach in a jar and see if it evaporates?  Not my daughter!  My daughter is going to pour bleach into two different jars, place them in different temperatures (outside and inside) and see which one evaporates faster, keeping a twice daily log, of course.  The teacher wants you to write a paragraph about what happens?  Not MY daughter.  My daughter is going to write a full report including purpose, hypothesis, and conclusion, describing her variables and constants, and showing her daily log of bleach evaporation.  The teacher doesn't think this is necessary?  Well, I'm sorry.  Don't send my daughter home with a so-called "science experiment" assignment if you aren't going to support a full-fledged science experiment (minus the reusable wooden backboards on which we detailed the entire experiment in construction paper, showing just how seriously we took our science projects.)  Because if there's one thing I learned from my father, it was how to do a darn good (and scientifically accurate!) science experiment.

At the time, I thought he was just pedantic about science projects-- a perfectionist, a scientist who wanted his children to share his love for and awe of science.  Now I realize there was so much more to it than that.  It was never just about creating the best science experiment.  It was about coming up with an idea and then determining if that idea was accurate.  It was about thinking through things to find the right solution;  about testing different methods in order to find the one that works best.  Sometimes, it's about proving that what you thought was true was not true-- and having to adapt your entire theory to this new reality... because science- and life-- does not always turn out the way you think it is going to.  It's about seeing things through, not giving up, proving yourself- right or wrong.  Science, like life, may sometimes prove to you that you need to completely reevaluate your way of thinking.  But sometimes-- and, oh, these were the exciting, jumping up and down pleased with yourself times-- your hypothesis was correct.  The experiment came out the way you thought it would.  You proved it. 

And these are the things I explained to my daughter as she sighed dramatically and did her best not to listen while pretending to listen. And I, using my father's words and his ways of explanation, did my best to explain to her the steps she needed to take to get the experiment started; hoping she'd realize just how important this was; hoping she'd learn from me what I'd learned from my father-- because if there is just one thing my daughter is going to learn from me, I hope it is this.  

(As for all the other stuff I got from my mother, well, she's pretty much saddled with that from birth.)

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