Saturday, May 17, 2014


     Nearly twenty-three years ago on a sunny day in October, my mama sat next to me in a hospital, holding her first grandchild.  Clearly smitten, my mother pronounced, "She's perfect.  At this moment she's just perfect.  She's all possibility."

     In that instant, I believed that there was nothing that this little girl couldn't do; there was no limit to who she could become. Over the next two decades, I continued to believe that and worked really hard to make sure my daughter believed it, too.

Today our family gets to stop at one of the more notable mile markers along the the trip to Becoming. 

Today my daughter graduates from college.

     At five years old, my daughter was interviewed by a classmate of mine from grad. school for a course about teaching young children mathematics.  My classmate was invovlved in what was then emerging research about "math anxiety,"  a diagnosable learning disability where the fear of doing math actually makes it more difficult, in some cases impossible, to learn mathematical skills.  The research was indicating that females were far more likely to have math anxiety than males.   My little girl apparently had not read that paper. Completely without any coaching by me and without any leading questions by my classmate, my daughter announced that, "when I grow up I'm going to be a doctor.  Not a medical one, though.  I'm going to be one of those doctors who work in a college.  I'm going to be a Math Doctor."   No math anxiety for Thing 1.  Not then. Not when she was taking AP Calculus in high school. Not ever.

     Born with an innate sense of structure and a need for order, my daughter was (okay, is) often frustrated with her aging, hippie mother who goes through many of her days by just winging it.  I like to think that God gave us to each other on purpose.  She has taught me the value in a workable routine. I have been rounding off some of her sharper edges.  We meet in the middle with our shared wicked sense of humor.

     Her senior year in high school, though, her stress about getting into the right college was almost too much for me to bear. To her way of thinking, her entire Life Plan hinged on this decision. Her angst was real.  It was pretty awful. No mama likes to watch their child suffer.  Finally, I could take it no more and I brought her to my office.  At the time, I worked at a social service agency that provided a wide range of programming and was staffed by a broad array of professionals.  As I brought Thing 1 from office to office, I asked each of my coworkers to tell my daughter what their undergraduate degree was.  Not ONE person had a degree in his or her current field. It was  mind-blowing to my daughter.  Of course, because she was both very young and super-structured, she insisted that it was because I worked in the social sciences (not the REAL sciences). We were all touchy-feely, earthy-crunchy, and terrible at sticking to The Plan.

     Fortunately for her--and no surprise to anyone--she got accepted at every school she applied to.  In a nod to her mother, she chose Clark.  "It's a wicked hippie school, Mom, but it's got one of the best research centers in the country, and, well, you know, Robert Goddard built his rockets there."  That Goddard had been there mattered, because our future Math Doctor had grown up enough to realize that applied mathematics were way more fun than theoretical mathematics, and that mathematics applied to rockets were about as much fun as a geek can possibly have.  Our Math Doctor was going to work for NASA one day.

     And then life got in the way.  Clark might have been the best school, but it was also the most expensive.  The Air Force offered a path to NASA and a very, very generous scholarship--until Thing 1 had her first ever asthma attack while running a mile during her annual fitness exam.  At the very moment she was being diagnosed with asthma and losing her scholarship, her brother was being rushed to a hospital because of a suicide attempt and her grandfather was in another hospital dying of pneumonia. A lesser woman, like, say, her mother,wouldn't have come through that season with such grace.  She was rattled, but she still was that girl who believed that she could be anyone.  She moved back home.  She transferred to a state university.

She changed her mind.

     She worked through this difficult time in her life by changing her major.  Forget NASA.  Forget calculus and physics.  She would become an early childhood educator like her mother.  

"Kids are great!  My mom is great! This will be great! This is what I'll be!"

     Ah, but she already knew too much about math.  During her first (and only) student-teaching experience, she learned how much early childhood educators earn for a living. It is less than what she makes in her part-time job as a pharmacy technician. THAT math was a deal-breaker.  Besides, everyone knows she really is a scientist at heart.
     And so it is that today that perfect baby, who had every possibility before her will become a college graduate.  She is receiving a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology, because that is what you get when you add math, physics, education, and lab science credits all together.  She just started a new job at a specialty pharmacy that provides medications to long-term care facilities. She has plans (with her there is ALWAYS a plan!) to begin her accelerated pharmacy doctoral program next year, after she takes a few extra lab courses to better orient her towards pharmacy school.  

I love the woman she has become.  
I am exceedingly proud of how hard she has worked to become her.  
I'm excited to see what she becomes next.

1 comment:

  1. You really should have provided virtual tissues for her 'other' mothers after reading this...ugh. I love her, and I love you! The sky is the limit for our dear girl!