“You know you don’t have to be precise, Dad.”
My kids say this to me at least four times a week. Reproachfully. The guaranteed times are every evening after they finish their homework (Monday – Thursday nights) and are forced to endure my returning it to them with the mistakes highlighted.
They don’t like this, as they’d prefer that once the homework is done, it’s done.
Actually, they’d prefer not to do the homework at all, but as I constantly remind them, life isn’t fair.
Often the return of this flawed homework is accompanied by much wailing and gnashing of teeth.
They get pretty upset too.
I’m not helped in my push for “getting it right” when one kiddo defiantly informs me that his teacher has said “It doesn’t have to be precise.” This attribution to the teacher may be true, but that doesn’t sway me.
So homework takes about four times as long as it needs, and becomes a dreadful anticipation every evening after dinner.
At first, because they don’t want to do it. Then, once they are doing it, they are stunningly inefficient about it, interrupting each other, stopping to do a song and/or dance, or claiming such a state of dehydration that if they don’t get something to drink (preferably with chocolate in it), they will die. Literally die.
Then, once it’s done and handed to me, Stage 2 begins. Errors are found and pointed out, sheets of paper handed back, and at this point the stomping begins. Angry stomps that, because they are so young and low mass, are almost comical in their lack of resonance and inspiration of dread.
But laughing is a mistake, because then you get the glares. The angry, I-swallowed-a-black-hole-and-now-my-face-is-screwing-up-in-a-rictus-of-indignation-and-unspeakable-pain glares.
Laughing now is a mistake too, no matter how tempting. For they have been dealt a terrible injustice that they are powerless to fight.
Show your work?
But this weekend, one of the kiddos asked me a question while we were driving, and after I answered, he said, “You don’t have to be precise, Dad.”
Apparently I’d gone into too much detail. A failing I am prone to, I do admit. If I can give a long answer or a short answer to any question, I invariably choose the overly detailed response.
But it was strange hearing this admonition on a non-homework night, which got me to thinking.
Do I, in actual fact, have to be precise? (Probably not)
Indeed, is it possible I am too precise? (Yes)
Why am I precise? (Excellent question!)
And I had a sudden, obvious epiphany.
You see, in real life, I earn my paycheck by being an engineer. A metrology engineer.
What’s a metrology engineer?
I measure things. Most of the time, very small things. VERY small things.
(Cue genitalia jokes)
Very small things that have nothing to do with biology.
And it dawned on me, as I was driving, that my job requires me to be precise. It’s sort of the definition of what I do.
I’d often wondered how I had fallen into this particular day job. I’d studied Engineering in school, but if you’d told me, even as late as my senior year in college, that I’d grow up to be a metrology engineer, I would have said, “A what?”
And then sucker-punched you for insulting me.
(As a nerdy engineer-type, the only fighting I do is dirty since in a fair, you-know-it’s-coming fight, it’s far too easy to stop it from coming and then beat the pulp out of me. I prefer my pulp stay where it belongs – inside me.)
Heck, I was 2+ years into my career before the focus narrowed on metrology. Prior to that, it was a lot of stuff which happened to include some metrology.
But then, suddenly, I was the Metrology Engineer. And now, many, many years later, I still am.
And so the epiphany I had was that maybe, just maybe, I didn’t fall into metrology by accident.
Maybe, being a ‘precise’ person by nature, I moved into it deliberately without realizing it.
Which means I was
doomed destined for this career all along. That who we are truly does define us, even when we don’t know it.
And that is why I now fervently hope neither of my kids is douchy. Cause given what I think I just figured out, that would be bad.