When I was in elementary school, I swear to you, the most work I ever did outside of class was remembering to bring my Valentine’s cards to school on the right day. And I feel like first grade consisted mostly of show and tell and learning to color between the lines. Please tell me I’m not alone here.
Our days were not filled with reading and writing and Common Core algebra before we could even tie our own shoes in the same way they are for our kids now. And there certainly wasn’t any homework — real, legit, pencil-to-paper, due-date-specified homework. Given what policy makers today have determined is necessary to master in the early grades, it’s a wonder we didn’t all grow up to be completely inept, non-functioning members of society.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m glad my kids are learning, and they’re genuinely excited about it, too. But the homework. Dear God, the homework. It is quite possibly one of my least favorite nighttime rituals, this doing of homework with my 6-year-old. And if you’re a parent of an elementary-aged child as well, I’m guessing you can relate to these stages of doing homework with your kids.
Stage 1: Acknowledging the Homework
This stage starts out pleasant enough. You ask your kid if he has homework, and he says “no.” Fifteen minutes later, you ask him again. Still no. A full two hours more pass in which you repeatedly question your child about homework, each inquiry met with yet another “no.” You finally tell your kid it’s time to get ready for bed, at which point he announces, “BUT MOMMY, I HAVE TO DO MY HOMEWORK!”
You channel Buddha with every fiber of your being, fighting back strong urges to lose it on him, and calmly tell him to go get said homework before you start eating your own hair.
Stage 2: Finding the Homework
After sending her to retrieve her homework from her backpack, your kid returns empty-handed, claiming she can’t find it. You stomp upstairs after muttering something about how she needs to use her eyes a little better. You unzip her backpack, expecting the homework to be right there on top, only to take one peek inside and discover that HOLYFUCKINGHELL, it looks like an Office Depot diarrhead in there.
You ask your kid how long it’s been since she cleaned the thing out between hauling fistfuls of worksheets, construction paper, and glue-stick-soaked art projects from its depths. When she tells you she just cleaned it out yesterday, you conclude that elementary schools everywhere are single-handedly killing ALL THE TREES.
Stage 3: Starting the Homework
You bring the homework you found under eight pounds of photocopies back downstairs and find your kid engaged in some Very Important Task he couldn’t possibly participate in yesterday when you suggested it. You tell him it’s time to do the homework instead, simultaneously pressing his invisible whine button in the process.
Four nags, three threats, and one thing you won’t ever repeat again later, and you two are seated and ready to do this thing, but not before the baby shrieks/the dog needs to go out/the pot boils over on the stove/the house catches fire.
Stage 4: Doing the Homework
Once the crisis du jour has subsided, you and your kid begin going over the instructions. The farther down the page you look, the sweatier your palms get. She really is only in first grade, right? you think, stumped as to how you, an adult, could be having such trouble understanding what the fuck it is a child is supposed to do here.
Instead of admit to your ignorance, you ask her what she thinks she’s supposed to do, praying to every god you ever learned about in high school sociology that you’ll figure out what “write a number bond followed by a number sentence” means before your inferior show-and-tell-color-between-the-lines education starts to show. A half hour later, as the two of you are still working on number one and talking at each other 10 decibels louder than when you began, you seriously contemplate calling your local legislator and telling her you’ve got a number bond for her, along with a really good suggestion as to where she can shove it.
Stage 5: Finishing the Homework
After just three temper tantrums, one of which was yours, you and your kid finally finish up what should have been a 10 minute task in a cool hour-and-a-half. A sense of accomplishment washes over you and you begin to smile, daydreaming about the glass of wine that awaits you as your kid heads upstairs to change into his pajamas. You’re mere seconds away from fermented ecstasy when, out of nowhere, your kid announces he’s ready for you to kiss him goodnight but, oops, not until after you help him complete one more paper he forgot he has to do.
OHMYGOD I WILL KILL ALL THAT IS SACRED IN THIS WORLD! you scream internally, setting your wine glass down and trudging over to the table once more. You don’t even bother asking him how he was able to find this paper, and right now of all times, when he couldn’t find the other one to save his life. You just want to get this thing over with. NOW. Before you have to add homicide to your criminal jacket.
Stage 6: Recovering from the Homework
Finally, three gray hairs, a Xanax, and 25 minutes of sight words later, the homework’s finished and packed safely back in the book bag. For real this time. You escort your kid to her bedroom, tuck her in, and make a beeline for the wine. Only this time, you skip the glass and head straight for the whole stinkin’ bottle. Homework is hard, dammit, and you deserve it. All 750 glorious milliliters.
Copyright Lola Lolita as first published on Scary Mommy