My children were born nearly five years apart. This has been both very helpful and very unhelpful—usually for the exact same reasons. It was very helpful not to have two children in diapers at once, just as it was very helpful not to have two of them discovering the joys of disagreeing with everything at the same time. And if they had both discovered how the shower worked at once? I fear the water table would have never recovered.
But at the same time it would have been nice to only go through some of those things once, even if it meant things got twice as intense. And it would have been nicer still to have kept the same naivete I had the first time around—it would be nice, the second time, to believe that whatever unpleasantness we were going through would only last a few weeks, or at the most, months—instead of knowing, as I do now, that what lay ahead could easily take years.
Take, for instance, the issue of homework. The sheer, horrible, brutality of homework. Yeah, I’m not a fan. I didn’t like it when they were in elementary school, and I don’t like it now, in middle and high school. In fact, I have been known to simply scrawl a big “NO” across the front of a word find and send it back in with my initials—word finds and “find the hidden objects” striking some sort of ancient hatred deep in my heart. But I acknowledge that sometimes homework is necessary, especially when it comes to classes like math, music and language. These are classes where learning new concepts is only half the battle: you must internalize the new concept to really make any progress. So, yeah, while I will gladly subvert any homework assignment that seems like it is just there to take up time and space, I will be your biggest supporter when it comes to conjugating verbs, practicing scales and solving equations. Which explains the battle to get Clyde to do his math homework. Every. Single. Night.
It’s not even that much homework—usually just one page a night. One short page. It takes him, at the most, ten minutes to complete it. And yet, the procrastination and negotiation phase of the homework can sometimes take hours. It’s exhausting. Infuriating. And worst of all, takes valuable time away from my drinking. And so, when it comes to fighting the nightly math homework battle, I finally broke down and did what any other mature adult would do when they were fighting with a child—I enlisted another child for help.
To be fair, Clementine is not a child anymore. But at eighteen she’s close enough that she can still remember well enough how the enemy thinks. What’s more, since she eventually managed to move past the “homework denier” phase herself (after years of fighting), I thought that she would be my best chance of talking some sense into Clyde. And so I asked (okay, paid) her to talk to him about the importance of doing his homework. Surprisingly (or not surprisingly, considering the twenty bucks involved), she agreed.
Curious as what my Andrew Jackson had bought me, I couldn’t help but listen in on the conversation that followed. Would she tell him it was all worth it once you opened up the acceptance letter to your top choice college? Would she explain that everything made more sense once you understood the basic concepts? Or would she give him the “just do it” speech? Turns out it was none of the above. Instead she leaned in his doorway and simply said, “Dude. Do you your homework. Because Mom? She never stops. Trust me.”
Hmm. Not the sage advice I was expecting, but whatever. At this point, I’ll take what I can get.