I was always brilliant in Maths. While others struggled with the subject, it came almost intuitively to me. Careless mistakes ensured that I rarely maxed the subject in the exams, but I couldn’t care less because I was too busy seeking out new problems to solve. Maths, to me, was not the burden that it seems to be for most people- it was a living breathing entity, one that I was completely in love with and couldn’t do without.
I was also quite a bit of a snob. For a very long time, I recognized only two categories of people- those who were good in Maths and those who were not. And I felt no need to waste my time on the latter category, because I felt they lacked even basic intelligence.
I started playing number games with my son long before his first birthday. While other mothers sang lullabies, I chanted series of prime and ordinal numbers. While feeding him, I would place the bites in numerical patters, and constantly change the pattern as the number diminished.
I was looking for that one sign that would show me he was gifted, and while waiting, I continued stimulating his mathematical side as best as I could. But that spark I was looking for remained elusive. If anything, he was a little behind his peers. While his classmates were counting in decreasing in order, he struggled with the normal counting up. Even though I did not want to admit it even to myself, he relied on pure guesswork to answer even basic questions of what comes before or after a number.
To say that I was disappointed in my son, could qualify as candidate for the understatement of the decade. I couldn’t understand how ‘my’ son could be so poor in subject which I considered the very basic test of intelligence.
I blamed myself- maybe there was something I should have done to boost my son’s numerical skills that I totally missed out on. I blamed my son- if even with a teacher as good as me, he could fare so poorly in Maths, there must be something dreadfully lacking in him. I even blamed fate- was it not ironical that all those dumb mothers had kids who were better in Maths than a brilliant person like me who put in so much effort.
But no amount of apportioning blame could take away from the fact that my son was far from gifted numerically, and that bugged the hell out of me. Without Maths, what could my son aspire to do? Wouldn’t most doors be banged shut on his face if he lacked that basic knowledge?
I was disappointed beyond belief. But gradually I came to accept that my son would never be my intellectual equal as far as numerical abilities were concerned. Once I accepted that, I started noticing other things.
My son could use words in ways I never thought possible for a child of his age. When he was in a mood, he could draw beautifully. He loved running. And he had a well honed sense of humour. He may not be gifted numerically, but his other gifts more than made up. He may not become a scientist, an engineer or a chartered accountant, but I realised that there are many other avenues open for him.
With acceptance, I also started noticing other things about my son. He is compassionate and generous. He is loving and loyal to his friends. He goes out of his way to take care of babies and baby animals. He is a much better human being than I have ever been. Should any mother ask for more?
It was only when I freed myself from the arbitrary expectations I had from my son that I could see him for the wonderful person he is. And I am glad I did.
Though I do wish he were a little better at Maths!