Mom math

Rick Ryckeley's picture

The knowledge kids gained while in school last year has slowly ebbed away. The three “R’s” of reading, writing, and arithmetic were replaced by the three “S’s” — swimming, swinging, and bikes.

Okay, so that last one starts with a “b” — arithmetic doesn’t start with an “r” either, now does it? For some the switch back again will prove to be difficult.

Kids forget a bunch of what they learn during the school year while they’re out during the summer. Such was not the case around our house. Nope, at 110 Flamingo Street there were two subjects always in our minds every day even during the summer: English and math. Mom math to be specific.

Mom math was different than the math Old Mrs. Crabtree taught us in her third grade class at Mount Olive Elementary School. Mom math was much harder than the higher math we struggled with in Corneal Baker’s Algebra II class. To this day, Mom math defies logic to any child out there. But as illogical as it is, to moms everywhere, Mom math adds up and makes perfectly good sense.

Mrs. Crabtree taught us that five times five was 25. Mom math taught us three plus two plus one equals 1,000. I’ll explain.

Most every day, Mom would yell at us about picking on The Sister: “I’ve told you boys a 1,000 times to quit picking on your sister!” That day I knew Big Brother James had only picked on our sister twice; Twin Brother Mark had picked on her once; and I had only picked on her three times. As for picking on The Sister went, it was a good day.

So how did all of that add up to be 1,000? Simple, it was Mom math.

Mom math is why Mom couldn’t tell time either. Almost every night after dinner, Twin Brother Mark and I would be in the living room arguing about what to watch on the one television we had in the house. Big Brother James and Older Brother Richard would be playing the rock, paper, and dynamite game, the loser each time receiving a wet slap with two fingers on the back of the arm. And The Sister would be running around screaming we’d put something in her hair, which we normally did.

Don’t know if it was the arguing, wet finger slaps, or screaming, but about 7:30 Mom would walk in and announce that it was 9 and time for bed. We’d argue all the way upstairs, but she’d always say the same thing, “By my watch it’s 9 and bedtime.”

Mom math has always been with us, with memorable statements like; “I’ve told you kids a hundred times to clean up your rooms and bring the dirty laundry down stairs,” “When you turn 45 you’re almost 50,” and, “I’ve found 10 skipping rocks in the washing machine last night.”

When mom said that last one I told her she was wrong; I only had five skipping rocks in my pocket. Everyone knew you couldn’t get 10 skipping rocks in your pockets. Five at the most, but not 10.

There were times that Mom math worked to our advantage, like when she’d pack us two cookies and we really had four. Or, if she’d had to spank us, she’d give us three whacks and tell Dad it was five. Or, when she said we could have one or two friends over to go swimming and it turned out to be the whole neighborhood.

Yes, Mom math sometimes worked in our favor, unlike Dad’s English.

English was another subject we kids couldn’t escape from during the summer. At any given moment Dad could walk into the room and without any warning, say a word we had never heard before. Then, he’d make us look it up in the dictionary, come back to him and tell him what it meant.

One day, after looking up the word “tolerance,” I came back and told him that my tolerance with his little word game was at an end.

Not good. I quickly found myself outside raking leaves for the rest of the afternoon.

It’s funny how the more things change, the more they stay the same. I find myself using Mom math all the time now that I’m a dad. When he was growing up, I’d tell The Boy 1,000 times to bring down his laundry, clean his room, or to cut off the computer and go to bed; it’s 10, when it was really only 9.

One day I told him to look up a word in the dictionary and tell me the definition. He came back downstairs with the word and its meaning printed out on a piece of paper. He handed it and told me if I didn’t know the meaning of any other words I could just look them up on my computer.

I told him to go rake leaves. Moments later I heard the leaf blower crank up.

Dad’s English might not work so well nowadays, but at least Mom math will never change.

Welcome back to school.

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