When It’s Our Turn to Take Care of Them The unique challenges of caring for our community’s seniors

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LESSONS FOR LIFE

By: L. Azar

Iset a scalding mug of hot chocolate down beside me, kicked open the sofa’s footrest and drew a fuzzy beige afghan up to my chin. I picked up the novel I had been reading and opened to the marked page.

Ah, relaxation!

Did you see it coming? Of course, you did – that situation was too good to be true! Barely one line into my book, I remembered: I was supposed to make a few work-related phone calls that night. Because of the time and energy I knew it would consume, I had been pushing them off for a while; but these calls could wait no longer.

But I don’t wanna!I fretted, feeling much like my toddler does at bedtime. I imagined myself falling into a heap on the floor and flailing my hands and feet in tantrum-like fashion. I laughed aloud, threw the blanket aside and trudged into the kitchen to retrieve
my phone.

When it was all over, so was my evening and I felt anything but relaxed.

Deep down, though? I felt great. At last, I could cross this burdensome chore off my to-do list! More importantly, I felt like a mature, adult who acted responsibly. (I mentally scribbled myself a mitzvah note that went something like this: “Dear Morah, we are so proud of Leah for making her phone calls last night even though she was tired and did not want to.”)

This kind of thing, where you just don’t want to but you know you must, happens to you and me all the time. You’d love to stay in bed an additional half-hour but you’ve got to prepare your kids for school. Or, you’ve barely divested yourself of your hat and snow boots when it’s time to trek back out into the snowy night to pick up your teen from her play rehearsal. However, along with that self-discipline and perseverance comes a certain thrill.

I explain this to my students all
the time.

While writing is a great hobby of mine, math is even more enjoyable to me. Which is a good thing, considering my vocation as a math teacher. I love that math makes sense. I love how you can factor out polynomials a half-page long – multiply them, divide them, do a little crossing out here and there – and come out with “2” for an answer. For me, writing a formal proof is like breaking down the ingredients of a favorite recipe. Forgive me for carrying on so; I sometimes forget that it’s a lonely passion, this math thing.

The lackluster expressions on my students’ faces as I pontificate about radicals remind me too well that most people are not math enthusiasts. Too often, I am asked the age-old question lobbied by students the world over: Of what use is all this to me in the future?

Over the years, I’ve fine-tuned my answer to this inevitable (and admittedly justified) query. First, I quip, “Well, you’re being tested on this in two weeks.” Then, I deliver a short, trite speech about brain-sharpening and horizon-broadening. Finally, I elaborate for several minutes on the value of exercising one’s “I will do this even if I do not necessarily want to” muscles. I do this even as I know how right they are to be skeptical. After all, how many of my students will apply algebra and geometry in their lives? For most girls, the future use of triangles will likely be limited to baking hamantashen in the month of Adar. They may not need advanced math, but how many of them will need to employ responsibility and discipline, whether at home or in the workplace? I’d estimate about 100% of my students.

As mothers, we’re often faced with responsibilities that seem monotonous, difficult, or draining. Sometimes, we can push them off and, other times, they cannot wait and we do them with a bit of a whine. Let’s try and change that mentality. Give your get-up-and-go muscles a good workout by choosing the responsible path. Most often, you’ve got no choice in the matter anyhow (how else is your daughter getting home, after all?) And later, when it’s done – that dreaded but necessary action – realize that you’ve just exercised a valuable muscle that will elevate you to great heights in life!