Elementary Math

By Jeanne Marie Laskas
Sunday, September 10, 2006

Here we are, parents in bathing suits, yakking and yakking in the waning days of summer about new teachers, bus schedules and which store has the best deal on Elmer's Glue. I want to close my eyes, stick my fingers in my ears, and go "lee lee lee lee." But I don't know these people, most of them poolside acquaintances, well enough.

"Heh-heh," one of the fathers says to me. "Well, I'll bet you're really glad to see the kids go back to school!"

Now, wait a second, buddy. First of all, no. I am miserable about this. But why in the name of Flintstone lunchboxes is he singling me out as one who might be "really glad" to see my kids rejoin the world of itchy uniforms? I hardly even know this man. I don't even know which kids are his. What is he saying about my children? What is he saying about the image I project as mother? Jeez-o-Pete, buddy, I should give you a piece of my mind.

Instead, I say, "Heh-heh." A pathetic little guffaw of agreement. "Heh-heh." What is wrong with me? I am succumbing to peer pressure to appear sick of my kids -- like all those parents on the TV commercials. You see the mothers and fathers dancing down the pencil-and-gel-pen aisle while they wink into the camera: "We're free!"

I would feel like such a doofus not agreeing. I would feel like such a pansy admitting that it's breaking my heart to think of my kids going back out into the world, to the wolves, where anything can happen.

This summer my second-grader figured out so many things about God. She would report these to me as we drove around doing errands or swung on the backyard hammock. "He has a TV room, Mom," she said. "That's how He does it."

"Does what?"

"That's how He can watch everybody," she said. "There's a wire, like, a wire going from my brain all the way up to His TV room."

(Hoo-boy, we watch too much TV in our house.)

"Who told you this?" I asked her.

"I just figured it out," she said.

I told her that when I was her age I had similar questions about God, and the way I worked it out was that God was made up of nothing but eyeballs.

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