And I absentmindedly give them a halfhearted answer about doubling recipes, and balancing checkbooks, and surveying land.
They call me out on that last one, and I wisely submit that they have no idea what they're going to grow up to be. They could all end up surveyors.
Only, they answer, for sure we won't. Not if we have to do math.
It's later, when I'm matching socks and turning pant legs right-side-out, that I remember.
People get married, and then there's the honeymoon, and then when the diapers stink and the taxes are due and "What can you make with half a pack of lunchmeat and some craisins?" -- well, there's fine daydreaming in those honeymoon memories. Remember when we rented the luxury vehicle? Remember when you ordered the coq au vin, and I ordered dessert? Remember sleeping in until noon, going out for lunch, then counting our wedding money?
Figure out 9x15 now, so when you're my age, you can remember a time when problems had answers . . . and if they didn't, there was always the back of the book.
Arithmetic, and algebra, and calculus, these are your mental honeymoon. These are your chance to say, "Aha! I know the answer!" and be right. And later, these will provide the sweet memories of a time when wrong answers were safe and a feeling of exhilaration accompanied the successful working out of a problem.
You may never need to remember how to find the circumference or how to figure out how long the train took or what difference a differential makes.
But you may need to remember that all the size 4 "Cars" underwear is the 5-yr. old's, except for the one pair with fire coming from the back of Lightning McQueen...that's the 4-yr. old's that came in his varied Disney pack.
And you may need to remember that all the socks with three stripes belong to the 8-yr. old. The 5-yr. old gets the ones with two stripes, and the baby gets the ones with 1 stripe.
Somewhere in there, your mental acuity will need to be present enough to remember who wore the Old Navy tunic dress last, because the 8-yr. old and the 7-yr. old girls take turns with that one.
And really, for our family, Grandma's Crustless Quiche recipe should be multiplied by three but split into only two pans.
Seven cookies split between nine children with teeth equals 7/9 of a cookie each. But to make that easier, split all the cookies in half. Then everyone can have a half of a cookie. Now there are 5 halves left. Split those in half. Everyone can have one half, and the extra half goes to whoever first grabs the broom to sweep the floor.
And I know you don't believe me, but sometimes I envy you with your math book. A few tears shed, a few minutes sticking to the task, and then the joyous, "I'M DONE!!!" and racing to find your boots and coat.
Math envy. Is there such a thing?