It is difficult to explain to our observers why we do what we do. I am often asked why I torture myself by trying to be a triathlete. Although I am always training for an event somewhere in the future, it isn’t really the event itself that keeps me motivated. It is the training. It is the hard work, the heaving at the end of a sprint, a well-snapped flip turn in the pool, a bike ride where I synchronize with traffic lights and connect well with drivers, the spotting of a humuhumunukunukuapua‘a among the murky depths of an ocean swim. It is the coaches who blend their constructive criticism with attagirls. It is the camaradarie among team mates that weaves a cohesiveness as we hurl ourselves toward race day.
If I did it to win, I’d have thrown in the towel by now.
So here’s the metaphor.
Kid1 is a young lady who excels at science and math. She speaks Science, Technnology, Engineering and Math (STEM). She has won awards at the Hawaii State Science and Engineering Fair when she was in the sixth and eight grades. As a student at Niu Valley Middle School last year, she worked with a University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy post-doctoral student for her project that earned her accolades and a place in a national competition. It was about searching for water on main belt comets. Right now, we’re waiting to hear if she will advance to the finals and take her mom to Washington, D.C., with her for a Sept. 29, 2012, where the winners will be named. It’s called the Broadcom M.A.S.T.E.R.S. competition for middle schoolers. The acronym stands for Math, Applied Science, Technology, and Engineering as Rising Stars.
Honestly, we think this kid is already a winner. Oh, yeah, that’s what parents do.
About a month ago she and some other students who had won at the state level were invited to the Science Cafe, a gathering of local and visiting scientists who meet a few times a year in Hawaii. While the other students presented their projects with PowerPoint slides, I wondered how Sophie would do without pretty slides of rocks hurtling through space. I didn’t have to worry. While her father and I sat and listened, Sophie calmly talked about her project to this audience of scientists, explaining how she scanned miles of spreadsheets to find data indicating H2O. They were riveted. They were rapt. They were intrigued. They could relate. I realized then that Sophie was among peers who knew that science was 99.99 percent research and tedium. That the eureka moment is such a tiny and sharp flash of achievement. That science is as much chronicling and cataloging information as it is nailing a theory or discovery.
Last spring, while Sophie’s science project was being judged at the state science fair, a company called Planetary Resources announced plans to mine asteroids for water. For me it was an affirmation that my kid wasn’t just some silly star gazing space cadet like her mom, but a fantastically bright 12-year-old girl who had a project that could do the world some good.
She’s about to turn 13. She is a high school freshman, in the math and computer clubs, plays viola, and does things on the computer that I cannot fathom. She likes pie and pi jokes. She likes the beach and the pool. She is addicted to Dr. Who and turned her 11-year-old sister on to the show so they can support each other through reruns. They take turns having fun and picking on each other. She’s a regular kid on the cusp of teendom, and her father and I are buckling in for the ride.
So far, we like how she’s turning out. We’re really proud of her. And to think I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be a mom about 15 years ago!