A Dad's Take on The Variables of Life


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“Daddy, do you want to help me study for my math test?” my 12-year-old daughter, Jessie, recently asked after 8 p.m. on a school night. “Study” meant we’d be sitting down in front of the computer, pulling up word problems and racing to see who could correctly solve the problem first. “I’m tired, Jessie. You can study by yourself.”

By 8 p.m., I’m ready for my end-of-the-day ice cream, not math. However, Jessie tends to make requests until she gets the answer she’s looking for and, on occasion, her twinkling eyes persuade me. Instead of holding an ice cream scoop, I found myself with a pencil, pad and calculator in hand, competing against Jessie for math supremacy. I am competitive, even if it’s trying to beat a sixth-grader in math.

As a former banker and accountant, I’m pretty good with numbers, though debits and credits are a lot different than pulling data from a reading problem, placing it into an algebraic equation and solving it. Thanks in large part to my brother-in-law, Gary, who tutored me, I made a hard-earned C in college algebra — many years ago. 

Last year, when Jessie was a fifth-grader, she requested help with two math problems near her bedtime. I read both questions. Each problem involved multiple equations with multiple unknown variables, but I knew the correct answer. “Let’s call Uncle Gary.” Jessie ran for the phone before I had completed my sentence.

Jessie’s uncle, an engineer, tackled the first problem with her, but she was tired and didn’t seem to fully grasp the lesson from the other side of the country. While she got ready for bed, I asked Gary to explain it to me so I could work with her in the morning. When I shared my frustration about the late hour on a school night, Jessie responded, “I only had two problems left, Daddy. I thought you’d be able to do fifth-grade math.”

Ouch!

After breakfast the next morning, I reviewed Jessie’s homework with her. Uncle Gary had summarized, “The goal is to get down to one equation and one unknown.” 

This objective makes sense. As I apply this lesson to parenting, though, I realize it’s not easy to accomplish. There are way too many unknown variables. What combination of grades and SAT scores will Jessie need to get into the college of her choice? What career will result from Jessie’s passions for reading, writing and dancing? How will friends and family members in Jessie’s life influence her decisions? Will she drive the speed limit when Dad’s not sitting next to her in the car? I don’t even want to think about her dating years.

Fortunately, I don’t need to solve all of these problems now. The equation, though, that I want Jessie to always remember as she solves for unknowns in her future is that D + M = 100. Of course, D (Dad) and M (Mom) might not always know the answer, but our love for her will always equal 100 percent.

Parents don’t always have the correct answer. As Jessie watched me struggle with her math problem, she received lessons on the importance of hard work, not giving up and the constant need to keep learning. It’s also OK to ask for help. Uncle Gary will be on call when Jessie takes algebra next year. 

Back to the results of the recent 8 p.m. math competition — Jessie won, 8 to 3. As I think about the new year that begins Jan. 1, I’m confident unknowns will keep the next 365 days exciting. But whatever life brings, Jessie understands the “D” and “M” in the equations are known and constant. 

Patrick Hempfing had a 20-year professional career in banking, accounting and auditing before he became a father at age 44. He is now a full-time husband, stay-at-home dad and author of “MoMENts: A Dad Holds On,” available at amazon.com. Follow him at facebook.com/patricklhempfing and on Twitter @patrickhempfing.

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November 2017

Step back in time with a 19th-century costumed interpreter and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal. Registration encouraged online. Tickets available at the...

Cost: $5/adult, $3 ages 7-16. Free for ages 6 and younger

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

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Celebrate the wonderful world of exotic animals and reptiles. Enjoy live specimens, presentations, raffles, vendors and much more. Purchase tickets online.  

Cost: $12 ages 13 and older, $5 ages 5-12.

Where:
N.C. State Fairgrounds, Kerr Scott Building
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

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Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
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Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
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Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

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Kicks off the holiday season with local art, music, food, and family activities at various locations in Durham’s historic downtown district. Presented by the Durham Arts Council with support...

Cost: Free and open to the public.

Where:
Downtown Durham
120 Morris St.
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View map »


Sponsor: Durham Arts Council
Telephone: 919-560-2719
Contact Name: Susan Tierney
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Participants develop their naturalist skills and understanding of local nature. Ages 5-8 with parent. Register online.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Cost: $12/resident, $16/nonresident

Where:
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Gov. James B. Hunt Horse Complex
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Sponsor: St. Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Sarah Rapp
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Make crafts celebrating turkeys. All ages with adult. Meet at the Cardinal Shelter. Registration not required. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder District Park
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Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Children ages 18 months-4 years and their parents enjoy free creative movement and music classes. The creative movement class focuses on the development of gross motor skills and...

Cost: Free

Where:
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Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Sarah Rapp
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Cost: Free

Where:
Read With Me Book Shop
111 E. Hargett St., $110
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Learn what it was like to be a kid at the first Thanksgiving. Play games and make a food collage. Choose either the 10:30-noon and 2-3:30 p.m. session. Ages 7 and older. Register online.

Cost: $6/child

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, AL
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Toddler Time is a special time for ages 5 and younger to bounce under the supervision of their parents, and without interference from the big kids. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $7-$10

Where:
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1720 Guess Rd., Ste. 90
Durham, NC  27701
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Website »

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Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Sponsor: St. Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Sarah Rapp
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Cost: Free

Where:
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111 E. Hargett St., $110
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Website »

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Cost: Free

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5801 Falls of Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Sarah Rapp
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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: Free

Where:
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333 Crossroads Blvd
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Website »

More information

Children ages 18 months-4 years and their parents enjoy free creative movement and music classes. The creative movement class focuses on the development of gross motor skills and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: St. Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Sarah Rapp
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Pump It Up Raleigh
10700 World Trade Blvd, #112
Raleigh, NC  27617
View map »


Sponsor: Pump it Up
Telephone: 919-828-3344
Contact Name: Owner/manager Kellie Paterson McHugh
Website »

More information

Read the story by Karma Wilson and make a Thanksgiving-themed craft. All ages. Registration not required.

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
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View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

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Cost: $35-$55

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
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See the classic holiday story brought to life onstage featuring favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and...

Cost: $15 and up

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Fit & Able Productions presents the Turkey Chase trail festival at Umstead Park. Take part in a 5K, 10K or 20K. After the race, enjoy fruit, brownies and other...

Cost: $25-$45

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Umstead Park
8801 Glenwood Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27617
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Sponsor: Fit and Able Productions
Telephone: 919-673-4689
Contact Name: Travis
Website »

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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
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View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Toddler Time is a special time for ages 5 and younger to bounce under the supervision of their parents, and without interference from the big kids. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $7-$10

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1720 Guess Rd., Ste. 90
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View map »


Website »

More information

Shop more than 20 local vendors offering amazing gifts this holiday season. Enjoy daily raffles with proceeds benefiting local animal rescue Paws in the City. Kids can enjoy crafts...

Cost: Free

Where:
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333 Crossroads Blvd
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Website »

More information

The Raleigh Boychoir makes an appearance before its big Christmas concert.

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Website »

More information

Kids ages 6 and younger enjoy stories. Take part in an optional arts and crafts session after storytime for $5.

Cost: Free

Where:
Read With Me Book Shop
111 E. Hargett St., $110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

See the classic holiday story brought to life onstage featuring favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Fletcher Theater
2 E. South St.
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View map »


Website »

More information

Take a 30-minute tour to view the main power drive and milling machinery. Tickets available inside the park's visitor center. Online registration encouraged.

Cost: $5/adult, $3 ages 7-16. Free for ages 6 and younger

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Explore the historic nature of Leigh Farm Park with a friendly guide. Venture inside the historic farmhouse while being captivated by tales about life at Leigh Farm throughout the years.

Cost: Free

Where:
Leigh Farm Park
370 Leigh Farm Rd.
Durham, NC  27707
View map »


Sponsor: Durham Parks and Recreation
Telephone: 919-560-1116
Contact Name: Natalya Buckel
Website »

More information

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Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Fletcher Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Catch this comedy classic on the big screen—as the symphony plays the charming and delightful score by John Williams live. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $14-$29

Where:
Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

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