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Newton’s Law Meets Murphy’s Law

Don’t you hate that pit on your stomach when you know you’ve made a big mistake but you’re not exactly sure how bad the fallout will be? Then you lose a night’s sleep tossing and turning, beating yourself up for doing something that seemed reasonable at the time, but now you know it wasn’t. Do you remember back to high school when even minor decisions carried the weight of the world?

Enter my son, high school freshman, perfectionist, and science lover working on his first science lab report of the year two days before it was due. He had written formal science lab reports before, so it should have been a fairly straightforward assignment. But he panicked—the all-out, I-can’t-think-straight-and-I’m not-even-sure -of-my-name kind of panic that renders one incapable of coherent thought. He couldn’t get a graph of his data to look right when all of a sudden it dawned on him: his lab group had done the experiment backwards and all of his data was inverted. Because they were using some new high-tech equipment to perform the experiment at school, there was no chance of us replicating it at home. Gone are the days of science experiments with simple household supplies.

We let him have a good cry, assured him that this wasn’t the end of the world, and then together came up with some strategies to handle the situation. He would contact the teacher first thing in the morning to see about the possibility of re-doing the experiment on his own time. If that wasn’t possible, we would encourage him to write the paper explaining his skewed results in light of his errors. Either way, some good life lessons were being learned. By morning, his head had cleared and by that afternoon, I had my son back. He had been able to re-do the experiment during lunch. (My son, who is hungry as soon as I put away the food, had given up his lunch to do this!) He confidently came home and with a renewed sense of purpose has been diligently working to complete the paper.

The whole episode reminds me of those VISA commercials:

Cost of trying to write a lab report with incorrect data: one night of tears, two stressed parents, and one missed lunch period to re-do the experiment with the teacher.

Value of redeeming his self-confidence and knowing that he overcame one of life’s many hurdles on his own: priceless.

Parenting. It’s everywhere you want to be.

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