The Latest Lost in Suburbia Column: E=MC Hammer with a Side of Meatballs


I know there are some people who enjoy going back to school and getting advanced degrees, but when I graduated college, I was happy to never, ever, EVER open a textbook again.

It’s not that I was a bad student. It’s just that no matter how much I studied, there were some subjects that simply would not take hold in my brain. Like, most of them. Fortunately, I didn’t think it would slow me down in life to not have a good grasp of math, science or history. But I neglected to consider that I might have kids who would need help with their homework one day.

“Hey Mom, do you know what a dodecahedron is?” asked my son as he peered through his math textbook.

I thought for a minute. “I think it’s a dinosaur,” I finally responded.

He looked at me blankly.

“That’s not right, is it?” I said glumly.

“It’s OK. I’ll go ask Dad.” He replied and went to find his father while I went back to counting whatever brain cells I had left after childbirth.

“Hey Mom,” asked my daughter a little later. “Do you know when the Ottoman Empire ruled?”

“They named an empire after ottomans?” I asked incredulously. “That is so awesome! Did they have one for loveseats, too?”

“You’re kidding, right?” she asked.

I shook my head.

“It’s OK. I’ll go ask Dad.” She said as I left to find her father while I gazed admiringly at our family room ottoman.

“Hey Mom, do you know the Law of Conservation of Mass?” wondered my son that same night.
“Yes,” I said firmly.  “I think it has something to do with gaining weight in the winter and then losing it in the summer.”

My husband looked up from his magazine.

“Honey, did you ever actually go to school?” he asked.

I put my hands on my hips and glowered at him.

“Yes,” I sniffed. “And I did really, really well in the creative arts.”


I realized then that my family all thought I was a dummy. I knew that I was smarter than they thought – I just wasn’t book smart. So what if I thought a rhombus was a Spanish dance, or that Thomas Edison discovered electricity, or that Ikea was an actual city in Sweden. The important thing was I could do a mean rhombus and I was really good at using electricity and I liked Swedish meatballs. The rest of it was just useless, extraneous information.

“You know,” I finally said to them at dinner. “You guys all think you’re so brilliant. I want you to know that I’m an award winning columnist, a celebrated author, and a gifted storyteller. Just because you all know the difference between a trapezius and a trapezoid and I don’t, doesn’t mean you’re smarter than me.”

My daughter looked at me, took a bite of food, and then sighed.

“Smarter than I.”

©2014, Beckerman. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Who Are These Children and Why are they Calling Me Mommy

11 responses to “The Latest Lost in Suburbia Column: E=MC Hammer with a Side of Meatballs

  1. I know the feeling, Tracy, except I went to college after my kids left home. Take heart, some day they’ll fix your sink and drive you to the doctor – with a notebook and a list of questions.

  2. Loved it. Left a comment. Look forward to seeing you in Dayton. Mmm, looks like I’m into alliteration today. Hey, that’s a word my kids don’t know. sd

  3. Great column Tracy and one I can relate to. My response is usually, “I’ll just Google that.” As for dodecahedrons, I would have said, “I think it’s a rhododendron, a bit like an azalea.”…dinosaur would have been my next guess! AB

  4. Harvey Baron

    Fun. You’re so good! Xoxo Pops

    Sent from my iPhone


  5. I was proud of being a straight A student back in the day, and I was able to help my kids with everything, right up until my oldest got into calculus and started asking me stuff like whether I know how to chart the theory of epsilon space inside an inverted hexagram cone if the cone is cut in half diagonally and the train is going 90 mph. I usually cut her off mid-description and say something like, “Oh my gosh, what? No. I am SO glad I didn’t take calculus.” (yeah. not helpful)

    In my defense–last year I DID figure out the way to calculate and use that funny symbol that looks like a greek E or a backwards 3 or whatever, and I helped her with a lesson, and she got all the answers right. But her math teacher (who is a crazy scientist/genius at heart) said that, although the *answer* was correct, he had no earthly idea how we got there. I think he may have lost sleep over it. So I quit helping–in case I’m skewing the universe by not Following The Formula, and I don’t want her living in a van down by the river after Learning It Wrong.

    Fortunately, she’s on general math/financial planning/doing your taxes/balancing checkbook type math now, and I can ACE THE HECK out of that stuff. 🙂

  6. I feel your pain. Every once in a while, I surprise my daughter by getting an answer right. Of course, she has to double check with her teacher, her friends, and “ask jeeves” before she believes me…

  7. Sarah Brentyn

    Well, honestly, who can keep up now? In math class, I crossed out and carried over now it’s all “Mum? How do I get the number in the grid to mach the number in the box?” “What the heck are you doing?” “Math.” I didn’t take math as a foreign language. Sorry.

  8. Ha! I got stumped by my third-grader’s FCAT math question. HE got it right, though. Guess that’s what’s important. Funny column, as always, Tracy.