It’s been a crappy week. My mom has relapsed, the Patriots lost, my air conditioner leaked through the ceiling of the bathroom again, and then there were all the homework struggles. Bee, of course, had a pile of homework and tests and classwork she had failed that she had to redo. I worked with her on reading comprehension and handwriting and proper capitalization. Gracie, too, had her own pile. She finally found something that made her pause and go whaaa? Fractions.
Monday night Gracie announced she had one problem left that she had a question on – how to reduce fractions. Oh! Okay! It was, like, one of the only math problems I was sure I could help her with! Except it turns out she understood how to reduce fractions, it was the “Draw a graphic representation of how you arrived at your answer” that baffled her. And me, too.
The next night, her dad texted to say they were running late because Gracie had to redo an entire homework assignment because her answers were all wrong. He tried explaining fractions again, and I guess it didn’t go over well because Gracie came home with a note. You know – the notes she uses when she’s feeling emotional and doesn’t want a big confrontation.
Dear Mom, it read. I am having trouble with my math. My teacher just tells us to copy down the problem on a sheet of paper. I try to tell her I need help but she works with the kids that are failing. How did I become so dumb? I hate math. Please DON’T get me a tutor just help me and get math related games and books so I can study. I don’t get stuff at all that’s how I fail not rushing. I love you. Love, Gracie.
That note crushed my heart and made me love my daughter so much. I love that she knows a note will be more effective if she’s feeling all the feels and might be prone to teen angst and fighting. I love that she identified solutions (tutors, games) that would help and was so quick to assume that I’d drop what I was doing and get her whatever she needed to succeed. That’s an awesome amount of faith. But the being dumb part? Hating math?! Oh, my heart. This is my child who dreamily announces that math soothes her. My daughter who has been figuring out the tip at restaurants since first grade. The one who learned long division in 2nd grade on a whim while we were just hanging out, waiting for the doctor at the pediatrician’s office. She hated math? More than she hated admitting she didn’t know something?
I sprang into action. Okay, well, first I hugged Gracie, then I sprang into action. I snapped a pic of the note and sent it to Ms. G., my bestie who works at the girls’ elementary school and won Math Teacher of the Year at state, and who taught Gracie for two years. So she gets my child’s brainwaves and the particular manner in which they bounce around. “Whatcha doing after school this week?” I asked. She read the note and my explanation and promised to pull Gracie from After Care the very next day. “The best way to teach fractions is with cake!” she warned me. Fine, then; let them eat cake. It is awesome to have people like Ms. G. in our village, no?
The piece that made me the absolute weepiest, though, happened yesterday morning. I told Gracie-girl that Ms. G. was going to meet with her to play with fractions. Then I worried for a minute. “Does Ms. G. count as a tutor?” I asked Gracie. She had specifically asked to not go that route and I was worried Gracie would be mad. “Uh, no – she’s my second mama!” Gracie answered. Well, okay then. Bee-girl asked why Gracie got to hang out with Ms. G. and I was about to step in and cover for Gracie when it happened: “I’m having trouble with math. I don’t understand fractions,” Gracie answered. Quietly, and with much more reserve than she ever uses, but she answered without hesitation. I was so proud of her. Gracie hasn’t ever stumbled at anything in school. She aces her classes without trying, wins StuCo elections, gets parts in the play, is friends with nearly everyone. She’s struggled in plenty of other areas, and she hates it, she sees it as weakness, so I was surprised that she would own up so quickly. Especially to her sister. Her sister who worships her and struggles at everything at school and has confidence issues because of it. I was so proud of Gracie.
Gracie did great, by the way, during her extra study session with Ms. G. They worked with pizza, not cake, and Gracie came home with games and books and worksheets and cubes to borrow. I am so lucky and sometimes it hits me so hard that I am left breathless. I am so fortunate to have people like Ms. G. in our lives who took the time from her own day to help my daughter. That I do have the resources to buy Gracie extra study aids (if Ms. G. hadn’t sent her home with half the education store). That I was born in an area and circumstances that allowed me a good enough education that I learned fractions the first time around, and that I’m blessed with enough brains (however scrambled they are) that I could have explained them back to Gracie if I needed to. That I have daughters who support each other when they need it. And that I have enough grace from time to time to see it all.
Don’t tell Gracie because it will short-circuit that fraction-minded brain right now, but that all adds up to way more than just one whole.