The following are perhaps the most uttered, least helpful words that a parent says:
The uselessness of the statement derives from its timing. It is typically said after a young child has bumped his head, slammed his finger in a garbage can lid, or fallen down and skinned his knee. What good does it do then? Yet it must be an autonomic response; I cannot help but utter the phrase after one of my sons has an accident.
Apparently, I’ve said it enough times that it has been internalized by my sons. While looking at the cover of the Into The Wild soundtrack, my four-year-old son Alex said, “Daddy, he’s not very careful.”
“Who’s not?” I asked.
“This guy,” he said, pointing to the photo of Emile Hirsch sitting atop an abandoned bus. “He’s sitting on top of a bus. That doesn’t seem very safe.”
I suppose it’s not surprising that a mathy father would instill carefulness in his son. We mathy people are known to be a careful lot.
Student: How do you perform a Fourier transform?
Teacher: Very carefully.
The following professionals are also very careful when they do what they do.
How does a mathematician find the area under a curve? She carefully calculates the definite integral.
How does a chemist find the area under a curve? He carefully plots many points on a piece of paper, draws a line of best fit, cuts out the area under the curve, weighs the cut-out, and divides the mass by the density.