Of stars and integers

Or, How my son has expanded my own universe

I rarely looked up to see the phase of the moon before I had Samuel. Heck, I couldn’t even name the phases of the moon till I taught them to my space-sponge of a boy.

I can tell you all sorts of facts about the planets, about the Big Bang, about multi-verses and quasars, the composition of our sun and the life cycles of three different classes of stars.

I’ve become reacquainted with the laws of inertia, momentum, gravity, action-reaction, and more.

I know how many bonds oxygen and hydrogen and helium atoms have. Heck, before Samuel, I’d forgotten they even had bonds. H2O=water was the extent of my chemistry knowledge.

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Compounds (color-coded spice drops + toothpicks)

Granted, no small portion of this is because I’m homeschooling Samuel, and I have to at least brush up on my elementary-school repertoire of science – which, like most adults, I’d long since forgotten.

And some of this is the natural learning that happens with us conscientious parents who find ourselves becoming amateur experts on all sorts of unexpected topics simply because we listen and read and ask questions about the things our children are passionate about. (I think specifically of a graduate school professor who was an expert in French and museology (yes) – a poster child for the humanities – who found herself suddenly also expert at all things baseball, thanks to two athlete-prodigy sons.)

But it feels like an amazing blessing to me. My world has grown, it seems, far beyond the usual lessons in wonder and strength and character most kids manage to teach their parents, simply by being kids.

Samuel has opened my eyes to the awe and wonder of the birth, life, and death of stars. To the magnetic mystery of black holes with event horizons. To the tantalizing notion of exoplanets just waiting for us in the Goldilocks Zone (look it up).

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Moon surface (photo taken with Samuel’s telescope)

He’s opened my eyes to the fascinating lines of geometry – especially drawings of three-dimensional objects. Even from wacky angles. Especially from wacky angles.

His boundless engineering brain leaps into imaginative constructions, plans, blueprints, and diagrams, and his boundless enthusiasm for them is contagious even for his mama who would rather read Jane Austen and talk about foreign policy or the effects of climate on ancient Near Eastern religions.

He’s even opened my eyes to the beauty of math.

And I NEVER thought I’d see that. But now I do – I actually see its elegance and clean frames and complexity as loveliness. Enough that I’ve expanded my nerd credentials into reading a couple of non-fiction books about math. Math. Math. It’s so shocking I think maybe I have actually stumbled into one of those alternate universes.

I read articles, blogs, headlines, and subscribe to YouTube channels now that never would have blipped on my radar two years ago.

And here’s the thing: it’s not just for Samuel’s sake.

I like this stuff now.

That’s what astounds me. I’m not learning space facts just to keep up with Samuel. I’m not learning molecular facts just so I can teach Samuel a subject he’s keen on. I’m not reading non-fiction books about math in an attempt to stay ahead of my student.

I’m actually interested.

My son has actually expanded my interests. He’s so passionate, so consumed, so engrossed in these things, I’ve caught the fever.

What a delightful – and thoroughly unexpected – gift!

Now, I’ll never be able to keep up. But that’s okay. I am pleasantly happy to be riding the light-tails of his comet.

Published in: on November 25, 2015 at 9:30 pm  Comments (1)