## Sunday, October 14, 2007

### Algebra and A Second Key

Our granddaughter Elsie is just getting ready to start a unit introducing algebra. She is apprehensive about equations and how to read them, how to understand them, how to solve them.

Listening to her, I was instantly transported back to the stuffy math classroom I sat in every day as a high school freshman, trying to make sense of the same things. Suddenly I could understand her apprehension very well!

It can be scary to learn new things. What if you don't understand it? What if you fail?

One thing algebra taught me is that failure isn't fatal, and it often isn't final. If you just keep trying, most of the time you'll master whatever it is you are working on.

Maybe that's the most important equation of all: (2)T +E(P) = S. Or to put it another way, (Lots of)Time + Effort, multiplied by Perseverance = Success.

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A second key to good inter-generational relationships is to show interest in your adult child and in your grandchildren.

This sounds like a no-brainer, until you start to think about how busy you are, and how busy your children and their families are. We get caught up in our responsibilities for our own aging parents, our jobs, and our volunteer work; our children are busy with their own work, school activities, soccer practice, band lessons, and all the other things that go along with parenting young children. It's a wonder we can make time for one another!

And for a lot of us, it's so easy to show interest in our grandchildren that we forget our adult children still enjoy knowing we care about them, too.

Sometimes our interest seems more like intrusiveness to our children. Instead of encouragement, we dispense discouragement and criticism.

Or perhaps we insist it's too difficult to learn about the technology our children and grandchildren use to stay in touch, or we fail to use the technologies we are familiar with.

Here are some ways we can show interest in our children and grandchildren:

* Make time. Pencil it in on the calendar. Invite them for regular family meals if you are close enough, or schedule a regular family phone call if you aren't.

* Educate yourself about things they are interested in. If your granddaughter is playing soccer, read up about soccer. If your son-in-law is interested in woodworking, learn the difference between a jig-saw and a table saw.

* When you call, talk to your child first, before you ask to talk with the grandchildren!

* Look for ways to affirm what is good in their lives. Think before you offer critical comments, or before you share advice that hasn't been asked for.

* Share things you are interested in or have been doing. Ask questions about their lives, but be sensitive to their privacy.

* Learn about new technologies you can use to stay in touch – e-mail, a family webpage or blog, a video phone, instant messaging. Model a willingness to keep on learning and to stay involved in life.

* Use other ways to stay in touch, too – everyone likes to get a real letter or an interesting postcard in the mail.

In the long run, what's important is that we demonstrate by what we do that we care about what's happening in our children's and grandchildren's lives. Our interest and caring is an affirmation of our love, and helps to keep inter-generational relationships meaningful to everyone.