A long time ago my mum was a biology teacher. She was so imaginative in the way she taught it and the creative visual materials she used that she was actually commissioned to write a biology text book. She used the advance from the book to buy our two sailing dingys. But she quickly got promoted to head of year then deputy head and the text book fell by the wayside.
Still she always kept the knowledge.
This came in useful as recently as 3 weeks ago when my daughter was trying to cram for a Pre AP biology test on the differences between animal and plant cells. I googled it and was soon overwhelmed by the plethora of information. How to pick out what was important? But when I FaceTimed my mum andctold her about the cell test she immediately came back with the ‘key differences’.’Primarily’ she told me ‘ a plant cell differs because it has a thick cellulose outer layer’. I was able to pass all the nicely synthesized information on to my daughter and she did well in that test.
I could have done with mum again last night. My daughter has been struggling with school. Teenagers dont have much experience of grief and her school is so academically pressurised its known as ‘Stresswood’. She has had no time off since her gran died and the work keeps coming.
Last night, while her dad and I were just stretching out on the sofa with a glass of wine to watch the new season of ‘Halt and Catch Fire’, she brought down three sheets from biology. She had homework on enzymes due the next day. I had offered to help her earlier but staring at the words
‘enzyme, substrate, active site, products, activation energy, chemical reaction’.
I realised I had no idea. I knew what the words meant individually but putting them together to understand the process was a whole other matter. I knew that if I could have FaceTimed mum she would have talked me through it in no time. She probably would have drawn me a complete picture of the whole process in five minutes.
But I had no mum to ask. So I asked my daughter if we could do it in the morning when my brain was less fuzzy. She was upset as, quite rightly, she doesn’t like to leave homework till the same day. But I just was too wiped to help her then.
But when I went up to bed I spent over one hour scoring the internet for enzyme and watching Khan Academy videos. As soon as I woke up I went back to it swiping and tapping through articles like The Central Role of Enzymes as Biological Catalysts and images of the enzyme active site with substrate and products.
Finally I worked it out enough myself to talk it through with my daughter and with 2 hours left before she had to walk out the door to catch the school bus.
As I drank my coffee watched her sitting next to me on the bed colouring in her cartoon of ‘mighty enzyme woman’ I reflected that I had managed it without mum.
But, like so many things, it would have been so much easier with her.