Thursday, March 12, 2009

Why Do I Have to Study Math?

I finally figured out the answer to the question kids have whined to their parents for decades: “Why do I have to study math?”

The answer: So that someday, when you are a parent, you can plan your own children’s summer schedules.

It doesn’t seem like it would be that difficult. You take a finite number of weeks, investigate summer day camp and activity options, determine your budget and your goals for the summer, and register. That’s it; you’re done.


It would be more accurate, I believe, to describe summer-camp planning as a complex algorithm. You must assemble all of the factors and plug them in at the appropriate times and places to arrive at the correct result, and at all points in the process, you must be aware that any single change can affect the outcome of the whole.

I have collected a list of camp options for my daughter. Ready, Set… GO!

I take a pass through the camp options with E and we highlight the camps we think she’ll like best and pencil (never use pen) our selections on the calendar I have printed out for this purpose.

Time for that pencil eraser...

I then remember that we don’t have a date set for mini family vacation we plan to take around Husband’s work schedule (3 or 4 days). I send Hubby an email to inquire about this year’s dates and receive back a frenzied reply about the uncertainty of which items he will need to travel for. Time for that pencil eraser … As soon as he figures out the lives of himself, his subordinates and all other company staff, he promises to get back to me. No problem. I return to my calendar and cross-reference the selected camps with the descriptive brochures—specifically now, I am looking at the deadlines for registration and cancellation and the non-refundable registration fees and matching those to my summer budget. I said budget… HA!

My budding scientist of a daughter informs me that she wishes she could go to the Science Museum of Minnesota “every day.” Naturally wishing to encourage such intellectual devotion, I revisit my initial rejection of summer camp that are exorbitant and excessively over-priced. I print out the museum’s summer offerings and run through the brochure once more, taking into account which camps are offered for my daughter’s age group and the weeks still open on my calendar.

Okay. Time to finalize the summer. Some weeks are set on my calendar (though I’m still not prepared to use a pen). For others, my daughter has to make a choice. I spread out the options on the kitchen table. For week X, she can choose between week one of a two-week drama/acting camp or staying home, but that decision must be made in conjunction with the decision for week Y, which is week two of the two-week drama/acting camp versus a two-week multi-sport camp. She has already decided to go to the second week of the drama camp. The drama/acting camp’s two weeks can be selected independently, but the sport camp’s two-weeks go together, so it’s all or nothing. What does she want to do?

“Mom,” E asks in a plaintive voice. “Can I decide this later?”

“Sure,” I respond. Who can blame the kid for not wanting to deal with this? I’m, well, older than eight years old, and I find this confusing.

But she’d better decide soon: registration begins Monday. And I think they’re going to make me use a pen.

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