My parents stopped being able to help me with math when I got to algebra in high school. Math had always been my weakest subject. It was a subject other kids fawned over as being so concrete, so understandable. But it seemed to float around my head as a mist I couldn't see clearly enough to grab.
I remember a lot of tears trying to learn it. Rote memorization didn't work. Word problems were a nightmare. I just wanted to write my way out of the situation instead of solving the numbers. I started to hate trains going in opposite directions.
It's not to say my parents didn't understand math at the level I was at; it's just that they couldn't teach it after years of nonuse. I suspected my mom has an unfulfilled accountant's soul when she gleefully said that management pulled her aside to find missing money in spreadsheets. My dad did hydraulics on jets for years and, with enough cursing, could also figure out what I did to break the car or the computer.
It's one thing to be able to reach through the mist in your own mind; it's entirely something else to be able to light a fire and burn away someone else's.
My parents also couldn't prepare me for college, as they had never gone themselves. I was always amused at stories of kids who fought about whether they'd go to their parents' old stomping grounds or set forth at a different alma mater, scandalizing the family name. I chose a college that offered me money, that was far enough away to attempt budding independence but still in state so I could drive and do grocery shopping in my parents' pantry.
It all shook out in the end, with me realizing that the school I chose was wrong and then moving to another. But many things were trial and error. I don't think we're prepared for how much life is left up to that chaotic process — you try; you fail; you go hug your parents, if you're lucky; and you get up and try again.
I look back and think that as much as my parents tried to prepare me for life, perhaps more by example, they didn't expect the world around me to change as it did for them and many others.
On Facebook, I recently saw a plaintive post from a gray-haired Dottie in a community group. She wanted to find work as an older woman but didn't want to apply online. Apologies to Dottie, but those days are mostly over. When you're not applying online, it's people you know. Otherwise, you're doomed to fill out the personality test for the Cheesecake Factory so you can assert that you're entirely there for the "family-style" management and your five-year plan includes loyalty at all costs, including minimum wage.
My mom has apologized to me, realizing that I, or her grandchildren, will never see the relaxed ease that she felt in the 1980s or 1990s. I've similarly watched with dismay as my kiddo has transitioned to the new world of online schooling, and I'm more sympathetic to understanding that we're all continually rolling with the punches — and still running back for the hugs.
Cassie McClure is a writer, wife/mama/daughter, fan of the Oxford comma, and drinker of tequila. Some of those things relate. She is also a National Society of Newspaper Columnists ambassador and can be contacted at [email protected] To find out more about Cassie McClure and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
Photo credit: geralt at Pixabay