What Are the Chances?

What are the chances?

Reliving College Humiliation:

I never thought my utter failure to understand statistics or probability in college would ever become a parenting issue. I haven’t thought about the red, hot “D” I received in a college statistics course more than once or twice in the two decades since I matriculated.

I always did well in math – geometry, trig, algebra – bring it on. Statistics ruined me.  Sophomore year, first semester, PTSD (post traumatic statistics disorder). I didn’t even consider getting a tutor at the time, but I am now.

Third Grade Stats:

Until tonight, I’ve been able to answer our daughter Ava’s math questions with ease, something I’ve felt a perverse pride in considering she’s only in third grade (look at me, I’m a whiz at multiplication … you should see my long-division skills, baby!). Here’s the question from my daughter’s practice exam that stumped me:

What is the likelihood of drawing a seven in a regular deck of cards?

Here’s how my brain works:  26 cards in a deck, 4 seven cards, probability of drawing a seven card? Who cares? Or 4/26. BUT, that’s not the right answer. WTF?!

Brain Bleed:

I hate not understanding something. And now my brain (or is that my pride?) hurts.

I will conquer statistics. Or not. What I want tonight is permission to never need to understand probability – I don’t gamble, don’t care about over/under betting or sports spreads and apparently will never be a third grade math teacher. Yet I do want to understand how to think through and solve questions like this.

My daughter didn’t know the answer (and soon lost interest in finding one) and my husband who understands this stuff was out-of-town. So I turned to the internet. I was determined to figure it out – on my own, damn it (you know, for Ava’s sake, of course). And I did, finally, but in doing so completely ignored both my daughters and perhaps taught them one or two choice swear words! (What’s the probability of those words coming back to bite me?)

Tutor Wanted:

Can you find my mistake? Does my stubborn insistence on finding the answer count as teaching my daughters perseverance? And most importantly, would I have aced statistics in college if Al Gore had invented the internet a few years sooner?

I suggested to Ava that she ask her teacher to review the basics of statistics and probability again tomorrow. Ms. Phenner, will you teach me too?

Permission to Write Crap

This is a much-needed hug!

I just made an agreement with Ava (age 8):  we each will write four sentences on our individual projects tonight. Hers on her third grade homework assignment. Mine on this blog post.  Then we will call it a night.

You’ve just read my four sentences. Ava is still writing. I think I got the better end of this deal.

This agreement represents huge progress for me. Until recently (earlier this week), my go-to parenting tool has been to nag and pressure my daughter every night to get her homework done. In doing so I’ve created a monster – me. I’ve been told that my interactions with my daughter around “her” homework amount to my being “up her ass.” Apparently, being “up her ass” is not a formula for a good relationship with my daughter nor is it having the desired effect, creating a young person who takes responsibility for getting her homework done and enjoys the process.  Who knew?

For the record, I am not a procrastinator. I pride myself on being focused, diligent and somewhat militant in my ability to push myself to get things done. It’s the trait I hold onto with a death grip on those (far too often) days when I need to feel superior to my procrastination-prone husband. Arguably, pressuring myself works to get the bills paid on time and our household running somewhat smoothly. The problem is when it comes to doing the things that bring me joy (writing) and help me reach one of my goals (writing this parenting blog), I routinely find a slew of more necessary tasks to accomplish. Tonight for example. 

I had such high hopes for this evening. My plan was to sit down and pound out a kick-ass post for this blog. Unfortunately, I’d rather comb through my daughter Rhys’ weeks worth of hair tangles than write tonight. I feel wiggly. Wiggly translates to sitting down at my computer, writing the date, fixing the margins, searching for appetizer recipes on Pinterest, eating a cheese stick, clipping Rhys’ fingernails, writing and deleting one sentence before fixing the margins again.

I want to say f*** it for tonight. Instead, I start noticing Ava’s procrastination process. “Shit!” I think to myself, “She’s inherited the procrastination gene from my husband!” Did I mention I’m not a procrastinator?

As I was about to tell Ava to get to work, stop messing around and just get something/anything done (yes, I’ve worked hard over the years to hone this particularly encouraging coaching style), I realized she was following my lead, mirroring my discomfort and self-pressure. It was easier to see it in her tonight than in myself. Not to mention it’s much more satisfying to watch her spin her wheels and grow crabbier and crabbier than it is to focus on my own wheel spinning. I hate to fail. I know how to pressure myself and others. You could say I’m an expert at it.

Instead of pushing her tonight, I offered her a hug. We cuddled on the couch and talked about feeling wiggly and unfocused. I told Ava that I noticed she was struggling and it helped me notice I was struggling too. We decided some nights you just have to let go. But first we made our deal. Her only request:  I sit next to her while we wrote. We agreed whatever we wrote would be good enough for tonight; crappy writing encouraged.