Sunday, January 5, 2014

Out of Their Loop

I watch them walk out the door, into the mid-day cold.  They laugh as they slide on the ice, her Converse having much less traction than his sensible Clark's.  They flash the same smile over their shoulders at me as they wave, their identical blue eyes shining in the winter sun.  And they're on their way.

They speak their own language now.  He shares his twenty-mumble years of programming and computer science experience with her.  Ruby on Rails, Rust, C++, Java, Linux.  She soaks it up and adds her own spin.  Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram.  He stresses the importance of structure and form.  She focuses on communication and connectivity.  All in a jargon I don't fully comprehend.

I keep an eye on their progress toward the shop on the GPS app.  The ice has made traveling conditions less than ideal, so watching them arrive safely makes me feel a little less out of their loop.  They're meeting with the rest of the team today to continue on their project.  Kids come from two counties and a dozen school districts to be part of this award winning team.  No amount of ice could keep some of them away.  They come to build, program, design, and test.  They come to learn about engineering, physics, public relations, and team work.  But mostly they come for one thing:  Robots.

Then the texts start.  They're really meant to reassure me.  He knows I'm a momma bear and I worry.  But also because he's proud of her.  And he's proud of himself for raising her.  She's building a rig, he tells me.  She's using power tools, suggesting design ideas.  He's mentoring other students and sharing his knowledge.  He often finds himself in awe of what some of them are already able to do at only seventeen years old.  He's enjoying these rare moments of spending time with his teenage daughter.  She was just a little girl a few seconds ago and now she's holding her own as part of a robotics team.  He's creating memories for her to pack along with her college supplies next year.  He's building a foundation of confidence and experience, giving her a launch site for what we know will be an incredible journey into adulthood.  He's teaching her to choose to spend time with people who respect her and to settle for nothing less.

Jill with last year's robot.
This year's is under wraps.
I'm grateful they have this to share.  Fathers and daughters don't often find common ground at this stage.  Robotics has given them something that belongs to them.  This team has given them something they can belong to together.  I'm grateful he is willing to step outside of his quiet comfort zone and get involved.  I'm thrilled to watch her bravely walk into a shop filled with tools and computers and all things "manly".  She gains confidence from the other women and girls in the shop.  Together, they chip away at stereotypes.

The end result of their intense six weeks of building a robot really isn't important.  (Although they will disagree.)  Whatever the team builds will be incredible.  Last year's team gave them an award winning robot to inspire them toward greatness again this year.  Competition season will add a new dimension to the team and to their relationship.

The National Weather Service extends the ice warning.  Fog rolls in.  I watch the GPS app again as they make their way up the icy roads.  They come in smiling, tired.  And they continue to speak in a language I don't understand.  It's theirs.  And I'm glad they share it.

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