Remember that talking Barbie doll that caused a media firestorm a while back because one of the several phrases she uttered was, “Math is hard?” I stomped around with everyone else condemning Mattel for peddling such a bad role model to young girls. But secretly, I wanted to give poor beleaguered Barbie a high five and say to her, “Rock on, sister, with your bad math self. We gorgeous, long-legged, mathematically-impaired blondes need to band together!” (Yeah, ok, so I’m not gorgeous, long-legged, or blonde. But I am bad at math. And I do lead a rich fantasy life.)
Like Barbie, I have never been a math whiz. In college I took a class that students jokingly called “Math for Trees,” because even a tree could pass it. Well, I’m proud to say that I did indeed pass “Math for Trees,” but barely. JUST barely. Since then, however, I have managed to get through life just fine with my mediocre math skills. I balanced my checkbook, back when checkbooks were a thing. I double recipes with relative ease. I even taught math to poor, unsuspecting 8-year-olds for years, and did a damn fine job at it.
|T-shirt from neatoshop.com|
Then I became a mom. And I discovered a secret sub-field of mathematics so tricky, so insidiously nonsensical, that I doubt even a math genius with a full night’s sleep could crack it. When I try to describe the mathematical challenges I face each day, they sound like those dreaded story problems I hated as a kid, but with a maniacal twist. For example:
· Let’s say you have had just 3 hours of sleep, thanks to a sick toddler. And let’s say you absolutely MUST stay awake later than your children (pesky buggers have to be tucked in and all that). If you drank your first cup of coffee at 5:30 am, at what times throughout the day should you drink MORE cups of coffee so that you can be awake enough not to do something that lands you on the evening news but also tired enough to fall into a dead slumber at 8:30 pm?
· If your child has a diaper rash that requires Desitin cream, how many times after applying the Desitin must you wash your hands to get rid of the smell?
· A toy comes with 20 marbles. Child A takes 7 marbles into a closet (why??), loses 5 and finds 2. Child B takes 8 marbles into the bathroom (WHY???), loses 7 but finds 3. The cats chase probably 3 but maybe as many as 5 marbles under the stove. How many marbles do you have now? How long before you lose ALL your marbles completely?
· Now let’s talk about Girl Scout cookies. If a = the number of Samoas in a box, and b = the number of people in my family, and c = the number of cookies I want to eat, and d = the number of cookies I can realistically blame my brother-in-law for eating on his last visit, then how do I calculate how many cookies I can eat with my glass of chardonnay tonight while still leaving enough for my family members to each have one and not be mad at me?
· Speaking of Girl Scout cookies, how many pounds can you gain before having to buy larger jeans? How does your answer change if you give up on jeans and just wear yoga pants? What if you wear yoga pants with a long shirt tied around your waist?
· If Child A needs to take 5 milligrams of Amoxicillin for an ear infection two times a day and Child B needs to take 7 grams of Amoxicillin for HIS ear infection one time a day, how do you keep track of who has taken how much medicine from which bottle and when? If you screw it up, what percentage chance do you have of creating a “Superbug” that is resistant to all antibiotics and will plague all the juvenile residents of your home with repeat ear infections throughout the entire winter? If you do manage to get all the doses right, what percentage chance is there that everyone will STILL get repeat ear infections all winter?
· And speaking of antibiotics, exactly how many doses of Amoxicillin must a two-year-old take before his digestive tract revolts and you must buy stock in Clorox wipes and laundry detergent?
· Finally, if you and your husband want to eat Trader Joe’s Sweet and Sour Chicken that needs to cook for 20 minutes at 425 degrees, but your children insist on Trader Joe’s Breaded Chickenless Nuggets that need to cook for 15 minutes at 350 degrees, how on earth do you get your family fed on time and all at once without spending more than 5 minutes standing in front of the stove holding two boxes of frozen food wondering WTF you learned in Math for Trees that you still can’t figure this out?
If you know the answer to any of these questions, please let me know. I’ll be over here scraping charred Breaded Chickenless Nuggets into the trash. Again.