Confessions of a Terrible Scientist

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I have lofty ideals.

My talk of innovation, curiosity and the spirit of learning means that I should be an ardent contributor to scientific inquiry. In theory.

My husband and I once gave three bottles of blood and allowed ourselves to be subjected to two artery wall thickness tests (read: pressure cuff pumping, nerve squeezing half hour of immobile torture) in order for scientists to find out whether or not Hepa Filters actually clean the household air in our house on a busy street. I’ve participated in a few other studies too, and I always learn something new.

So when I came across a pamphlet recruiting study participants asking “Does your child love smartphones? Do you wish their time playing video games was more beneficial to them? Do you want them to get more exercise?” my answer was a resounding yes.

Of course I want to contribute to a scientific study that tests whether or not smartphones can actually have a positive effect on childrens’ physical activity levels! This embodies one of the core challenges of postmodern culture and e-era parenting at large! With technology’s frantic pace of progress, and all its ills and boons, future generations will be navigating an increasingly digital society. The ramifications of technological change are staggering for our kids.

So I signed my two little guinea pigs up for the study.

It would involve each of my kids taking home a smartphone for one week and wearing an activity sensor around their ankle for two weeks, 24 hours a day. How hard could that be?

I shall enlighten you: The first day of the study, I forget to tell my kids to put their sensors on. Ashley then proceeds to lose her sensor somewhere between the tent (we’re camping), the truck and the lake. She dissolves into tears of self-hatred. We find it a day later. The good folks at the lab then ask for height and weight measurements. I screw up the height measurements and blame in on the measuring tape (don’t ask). Evan drops his sensor in the pool. The next day, he forgets his sensor at grandma’s house. We retrieve it and that very same morning, Ashley drops her sensor in the pool. Two days later, Evan loses his sensor somewhere between the pool, the car and his buddy’s house. It is still missing as I type this.

Compounded with the other exciting events of the week (including braces slicing Ashley’s gums, eczema flaring up on Evan’s skin, the appearance of an eye stye, not to mention the usual quantity of tantrums, squabbles and other ignoble happenings of preteen angst), the study left me feeling more like a wrung-out sponge than a heroic pioneer of scientific endeavor.

The tagline in my head has quickly evolved from “Eager science lover teaches her children the value of scientific inquiry whilst keeping them stimulated during summer break!” to “Julia feels irritated, defeated and pathetic.” I am too intense to simply flick the frustration away like an annoying mosquito. This is more than a mosquito. It is a mosquito with meaning. Let us dissect its squashed little blood-gorged body:

The conclusion is, I am either a terrible scientist or a terrible parent or both. Or perhaps that God is teaching me to apply some wisdom that I’ve already learned in theory, but now need to put into practice:

1. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

My sister-in-law passed this tip on to me from a highly successful physiotherapist who is a professor, researcher, practitioner and mother of seven children. For a control freak like myself, not sweating the small stuff is a hard one. But it’s a lot easier to do when I remember Parker J Palmer’s simple Quaker adage from Let Your Life Speak: “When way closes, way will open”. When a door shuts, learn the humility and grace of turning around and seeing what other potentials have been behind you this whole time.

2. Never discipline children for mere childishness.

This is good counsel from Tedd Tripp’s book, Shepherding a Child’s Heart. We may discipline our children for outright rebellion, but never for mistakes that are related to their developmental and physiological stage in life. Kids often cannot keep track of more than one stimulus at a time; I can only give them as much responsibility as I know they can handle.

3. Let God parent you.

I suppose that is what I am doing as I kneel down and scan this mess that has been scattered haphazardly all around me this week. I look up to my Daddy God and ask Him what He is doing through it. He doesn’t sweat the small stuff. And He doesn’t discipline me for mere childishness. Instead, He gently guides my pen and my thoughts as I write out my frustration and discouragement. He teaches me to be still, to laugh at myself, and to pick up the scattered pieces one at a time, knowing that He promises to one day make it all whole again, one bit at a time.

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3 comments on “Confessions of a Terrible Scientist
  1. This makes me laugh, Julia! It’s such a hard lesson to learn to be generous to our kids. It’s even harder to be generous to ourselves, I find. I don’t know how to be generous unless I can honestly admit that I screw up daily and therefore need to receive generosity from my Father each day. Wonderful piece!

  2. We found Evan’s activity monitor stuffed in between the sleeves of a hoodie stuffed into the corner of our car. So now you can update your blog to reflect this triumphant discovery. 🙂

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