Permutations

I’ve never been a math-y sort of person. I did well enough in math in school, but I just never much cared for a subject that had problems intrinsic to it. Still, lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about math.

With seven people in our family – and four of those either in or entering adolescence – the variables of our lives are increasing exponentially. I can hardly keep up with it all. Just a few days ago, one of my kid’s school office ladies called asking me why that certain child missed class that morning. I practically swore up and down that she was there, until I remembered that I forgot to wake her up that morning.

Oops.

I tried to pick that same child up at the wrong campus the next day.

Oops, again.

I have been in busy seasons without number, but I do not believe I have ever been in a season when the busy-ness is constantly morphing, like this one. Literally, no two days are alike in our schedule. There is no ebb and flow, rhythm and rhyme. It is just “hang on for the ride!”

So recently I started thinking about the math of our lives. How many possible combinations of seven digits exist? There must be a lot, I figured, since such is the basis of the phone number system. I googled my question and discovered that there are (at least, according to one source) 544, 320 possible arrangements of seven digits. (No wonder I feel a little crazy!)

If any of those numbers are repeated in the sequence, the possible arrangements increase to 8 million! Since I seem to need to be in two places at once these days, that number validates why I’m losing my mind!

Anyway, along the way of my arithmetical thinking, I learned a new word:  permutations. According to Google, a permutation is a way in which a set or number of things can be ordered or arranged.

And such is my life:  full of daily permutations, at least 544, 320 of them, thanks to the seven people in my family. (Whoever said that adding one more kid doesn’t make a difference after the first two obviously never did the math!)

But here’s the thing:  I wouldn’t change this family of seven for a minute. It is craziness many days; I sometimes forget who goes where and what is supposed to happen next. I get overwhelmed and overstressed and overworked. There is no margin, scarce time for self, and precious little relaxation.

Nonetheless, with all the permutations of our extremely full lives come blessings that I cannot number:

Two big sisters walking, arms around each other’s shoulders.

Two little sisters playing together in the waves.

A brother singing at the top of his lungs, just hoping a sister or two will join in.

A husband who consistently takes each child on dates.

A husband who consistently dates me, too.

A big family all tangled up in each others’ lives, laughing, crying, sometimes yelling, but always, always loving in over a half million ways.

And that is some math that I really, really like.

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