The things that will never make it in the baby books and other musings from a stay at home mom

Monday, May 22, 2006

Stupid is as stupid does

The task was a puzzle, a map of the United States. Julia was doing a pretty terrific job of putting it together, but eventually she got a little stuck. And so she casually asked for help, confident that I'd posses the information she lacked and could teach her what she did not yet know.

"Where does Ohio go, Mom?" I was across the room at the time, with no puzzle box to casually consult for assistance, and the question stopped me dead in my tracks. I didn't know the answer.

Ohio. Ohio. Shit. Where does Ohio go? I was born in Ohio for God's sakes. And it's... somewhere close to Michigan?

Geography, needless to say, is not my strong suit. It's one of those areas of study which requires rote memorization and I was never much one for rote memorization. In fact, I vividly remember struggling through an elementary school unit on the location of the 50 states. It was during that unit that I realized for the first time that I wasn't going to be able to coast effortlessly through school forever. Occasionally, I was going to have to do a little bit of work. This was a prospect I'd never even contemplated before, and it would have been a sobering realization if I'd fully been ready for it, but I wasn't nearly ready for it then. Instead I just got angry and refused to deal with the subject of geography at all. It would take years for me to accept the fact that I was merely smart and not brilliant. In the meantime, I missed out on learning a lot of things, including the map of the United States.

I have to assume that there must have been later opportunities to brush up on my geography. Despite the fact that I did eventually reconcile myself to some level of academic effort, I clearly eschewed them all (though I really can't say whether maintaining this gap in my knowledge was the result of a deliberate act of protest or just plain laziness). Either way, I've never quite known my way around a U.S. map, and I've never been proud of that fact. I can obviously see now why geography would have been a useful thing to study, and I'd already had quite a few "so that's where that state goes" aha moments as Julia had placed other pieces into the puzzle this afternoon. This was turning out to be a learning experience for both of us. But was I secure enough to let my daughter know that? Could I admit to her that I wasn't sure exactly where the border between Michigan and Ohio is located?

I could not. "Let's see if you can figure it out on your own," I encouraged her instead. "Use the picture on the box if you need to." Sure enough, she managed to insert the Ohio piece into the puzzle all by herself. I breathed a sigh of relief. And then, after she went to bed, I stood at the kitchen tale and I studied that completed puzzle, the way I should have studied it in the first place.

I'm 100% clear on how Michigan and Ohio are connected now. Hell, for the first time in my life, I'm finally clear on how most of the states are connected. In classic "better late than never" style, I could probably ace that elementary school unit now, a mere 20-odd years after the fact. We all need our own motivation to learn, I suppose, and I've finally found mine. I was stupid about a lot of things for a long time. But I'll be damned if I'm going to look stupid in front of my 4 year old.


At 10:25 PM, Blogger Gretchen C. said...

I had that puzzle as a kid and it's why I can tell you where all the states are. Play with Julia and you'll know too!

At 11:39 PM, Anonymous chelle said...

There are so many times I go to explain something to my not yet two year old and I have no clue, so I tell she will have to teach me!!!

US geography I am so lost, it is good to be Canadian and only have 10 to remember (oh yeah +2 for the territories!)

At 7:42 AM, Anonymous holly said...

Should I be insulted, since I am an Ohioan? LOL! It's okay, we have the puzzle too and I am a bit foggy on some states! Better late than never!

At 10:54 AM, Anonymous Tenille said...

My 8th grade geography teacher made us find all the states on the map AND all the countries in Africa and Europe AND all of the states of the USSR - for what it was worth, anyway.

But explorers? I couldn't learn those to save my life? Ponce De La Blah Blah?

At 12:42 PM, Blogger Jennifer said...

I love Geography. Even now, I'll pour over maps, just for the fun of it. But I'm already dreading any type of math homework beyond a 6th (or maybe I'd better make that 4th) grade level. WHO NEEDS FRACTIONS ANYWAY?! ;)

At 12:57 PM, Blogger Steph said...

I'm learning US geography along with M and the same US map puzzle. :)

At 1:03 PM, Blogger Kristy said...

Rebecca? How scary is it that I, too, could have written this post...all, except the part about studying it late at night as an adult -- I haven't done that part, yet.

And Jennifer? Them's fightin' words.

At 6:35 AM, Blogger jordan said...

can i use you as an example in my classes?

"hey, kiddo, you better pay attention. you don't want to wake up one day in your mid-thirites and not know where ohio is on the map."

hmm... think that tactic will work?

p.s. i didn't know where new jersey was for quite a while, and we went there every year to visit my grandparents... doh!


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