By Richard Black of The Unfit Father
I’m always pleased when I realize my daughter has inherited a few of my better qualities. In addition to my “come hither” stare, wide birthing hips and ability to belch, Darcy has been blessed with…well, I suppose that’s probably it, at least when it comes my “genetic contributions.”
Unfortunately, Darcy has also been endowed with some of my less admirable traits, like a short, stumpy pair of legs and a set of eyebrows that look like two caterpillars — two qualities that are not valued in women outside of the former Soviet Block and Northern California.
The good news is that we live in a day and age in which these sorts of problems are easily remedied. Options for hair removal are plentiful, and high-heeled shoes abound.
It is truly a glorious time to be alive.
Occasionally, however, I’m forced to confront the fact that I’ve bequeathed my daughter with other, more dubious characteristics — ones that are less easily remedied and that weigh heavily on my conscience: i.e. Darcy has been having some trouble at school. (Specifically, she is having difficulties with math, reading and writing, and I’d be less worried if those subjects weren’t the total sum of the school’s curriculum but…yeah.)
Let me be clear: Darcy’s in kindergarten, and it’s not entirely inappropriate for her to have some difficulty with the written word or the nuances of numbers. I mean, she’s five, and I’m pretty sure that I didn’t learn how to read or add until I was in my early teens.
Darcy’s complaint is that learning is “hard,” and I couldn’t agree with her more. (And I believe I’ve documented my own intellectual failings quite a few times.) Her condition, more than likely, is one I’ve suffered from ever since I was a young boy. I call it the “Fuck it” syndrome.”
The “Fuck it” syndrome has two primary symptoms. The first is a desire to downplay any bit of learning that is not of immediate value, and the second is a tendency to disregard anything that does not come easily.
Due to my interest in remaining ostensibly useful as a stay-at-home parent, as well as a few letters that had been sent home from my daughter’s teacher, I decided immediate action was required. And so the very next day after I picked her up from school, I let Darcy watch a half hour of TV before springing into an impromptu math and writing lesson.
“Let’s try counting to one hundred while we write down the numbers,” I said after pausing the TV.
Darcy began dutifully counting until she reached forty nine, at which point she stumbled. I began making “f” sounds and then “fif” sounds and finally, after ten agonizing seconds, I blurted out the word “fifty.”
“I JUST DON’T KNOW,” Darcy screamed. I didn’t have the heart to point out that I’d just given her the answer and suggested that we start writing out the numbers instead.
“IT’S TOO FRUSTRATING, DADDY,” my daughter sobbed a few minutes later after I corrected her for juxtaposing the number six when she meant to write a nine.
“Fuck it,” I muttered quietly while I comforted her in my arms and turned the TV back on. A new approach, clearly, was in order.
The next day I spent all of three minutes searching online for ways to entice my daughter to develop a love of math. There’s quite a lot of useful advice out there these days when it comes to educating a child after school. Phrases like “make it fun” and “play to your child’s interests” are bandied about, which is all well and good if one’s child’s sole interest isn’t watching TV.
Math, as far as kindergarten is concerned, consists of “games.” I’m putting the word “games” in quotation marks because it implies that the activity is nominally enjoyable. It is not. The only people who consider these sorts of activities to be enticing are their creators: sadists, masochists, sadomasochists, the occasional kindergartner, and heavily sedated wards of the state.
If you find flipping a coin one hundred times and noting the result on a piece of paper to be a good time or rolling a set of dice ad nauseam and writing down the tally to be a fun way to spend an afternoon, I highly encourage you to have your head examined. But for the next few days, that’s what I did: I spent an agonizing thirty minutes every afternoon flipping quarters and rolling dice.
The process would have been marginally more enjoyable if Darcy was remotely interested in the material. She wasn’t. My daughter met most of these exercises with a tepid level of enthusiasm at best. At worst…suffice it to say that men and women have knowingly gone to their deaths with greater aplomb. There was a lot of whining and pleading on both our parts, and in less than three days I threw in the towel.
“Fuck it,” I muttered while Darcy was in tears halfway through a rousing game of “Let’s write down the next four thousand rolls of the dice.”
I regrouped the next day and, in an inspired moment, chose to introduce Darcy to the card game “Concentration.” If you’ve never played cards, that’s probably because you didn’t grow up in the 1970’s. Television back in the day was regulated to only a few stations, so viewing options were limited. To occupy their time, many people back then used to play games like “Pinochle” and “Canasta.” If memory serves, “Key Party,” “Let’s Snort Coke” and “Watch the Luder” were also popular pastimes as well.
“Concentration” involves taking the fifty two cards in a standard deck and laying them face down in a grid. The object of the game is to match pairs. One player picks up the card on the grid, turns it over, and then attempts to pair it with a card of similar value. The winner is the player who makes the most matches.
Darcy showed an aptitude for “Concentration” immediately, and in short order she became frighteningly proficient. Within the span of an hour-an- a-half I suddenly became much more concerned about the precipitous decline of my mental faculties than my daughter’s aptitude for learning.
It turns out that memory is incredibly important when playing the “Concentration,” a fact I might have been able to remember if I didn’t have the short-term memory of a deluded ferret. Pride forbids me from mentioning how many games I’d lost before I called it quits. Actually, that’s a lie. My memory is so terrible that I can’t even recall that particular fact.
After congratulating Darcy on her numerous wins, I muttered the two words under my breath once again and went off to cook dinner or stumble around the house for a few days to look for some ginkgo biloba. I really couldn’t say because I don’t remember. The next thing I recall is sitting right here in front of my laptop.
What was I doing here just now? Fuck it. It’s five o’clock somewhere, and I’m going to have a beer.
This post originally appeared on The Unfit Father.
About The Author
Richard Black is a remarkably attractive, remarkably disease-free man in his forties. Unfortunately he’s also married. Prior to his life as a stay-at-home-father Richard spent more than a decade performing various public relations and marketing functions for a number of financial consulting firms and found the job to be precisely as exciting as it sounds. When not tending to his wife or daughter, Richard enjoys writing the occasional thoughtful post on his blogThe Unfit Father and subjecting the public to his…unique take of fatherhood on a more regular basis. He has been published in Scary Mommy, Sammiches and Psych Meds, The Good Men Project and the Anthology “It’s Really Ten Months Special Delivery: A Collection of Stories from Girth to Birth. Follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.