Work at Home

2 Oct

Stepping into your daughter’s room to find her huddled on her bed, un-dressed, brushed, or washed, and weeping bitterly, is, I think we can agree, a fantastic start to a school day.

Me (looks at clock): “Is… Something wrong?”
Her: “I FORGOT TO DO MY READING HOMEWORK!” (Sobs.)
Me (looks at clock, does quick calculation, looks at daughter, amends calculation): “Oh. Darn.”

My daughter and I are similar in many ways, too similar in some key ways, but one thing we differ on, (for now, at least), is our philosophy about homework. I am lazy. I am lazy on, like, a cellular level. In my school years I expended much more effort trying to get maximum gain out of minimum work than I expended on the actual WORK. Much of my adult “work” life boils down to a half-assed battle against the forces of sloth. I have largely avoided traditional workplaces because of those slave-driver bosses breathing down your neck and expecting “deliverables” and “results.” When I’m my own boss I take a lot of, uh, mental health days. I count getting my eyebrows waxed as a work appointment. I don’t always wait until the stroke of 5 to have a post-work cocktail.

My daughter, however, clearly operating under the auspices of a filtered genetic inheritance, comes home from school, gets herself a snack, and sits right down to do her homework. Never, ever, not once in my life, did I ever do this. She follows instructions to the letter and takes pride in ticking off each item on her homework to do list. If there is confusion about an assignment, she chooses to do extra work, just to be safe. Her frustration and fury when she doesn’t understand directions or runs out of time to work are formidable.

So, because she’s a kid, and because one of our similarities is falling helpless victim to sweeping emotional shitstorms, there’s a lot of drama around homework, and I am finding it hard to manage. On the one hand, I want to encourage and support her good work ethic. On the other, my default solution is SKIP THE CRYING AND JUST DON’T DO IT.

So back to this morning and the 20 minutes of required reading she didn’t do last night. The kid reads all the time! She normally reads for more than 20 minutes a day! It all averages out! So my first suggestion is that we just kind of fudge–have her read for 12-ish minutes and round up.

Her (shocked, SHOCKED): “That’s lying! I can’t do that!!!”

Ugh, right. Don’t coerce your kid into lying about homework, Stupid McBadparent. So then I offer to write a note to her teacher explaining that she worked on her math homework for an hour instead of the 15 required minutes, and just ran out of time to read. (All true! SHE WORKED ON MATH FOR 45 EXTRA MINUTES VOLUNTARILY IT’S LIKE MOTHERING AN ALIEN.)

Her (crying again): “But I was only supposed to work on math for 15 minutes! That was my fault! I’m going to get in trouble!”

And no matter how I gently tried to explain that she would never get in trouble for doing extra work she full-on panicked about not being able to finish everything before school and meanwhile had not eaten breakfast and bus arrival time was getting nigher and nigher and LORD we needed to just GET THE SHOW on the ROAD so I started hurrying her and barking at her to JUST GET DRESSED WE WILL WORK IT OUT which only made her cry harder which was so simultaneously pitiful and annoying I hardly knew what to do with myself.

All this before 8 am. I would be so much better at parenting if the crises did not so often happen at bedtime, in the middle of the night, or first thing in the motherscratching morning.

Yeah. See, so, my problems are mostly just issues of TIMING. No need to read parenting books for advice, lord no, that sounds like homework, and what kind of grind does THAT?!

2 Responses to “Work at Home”

  1. Angel October 3, 2012 at 1:40 am #

    Miller, I love you. And have for a long time. But it’s just made me all warm and fuzzy and full of Miller nostalgia to read that post. Also, Iris may be my alien child (so why does she look so much LIKE you?!), because that is exactly how I approached homework. Sad news for you, my friend, she will not grow out of it. The silver lining is that if you buy her a cell phone early in life and will soon learn to call and lament to her friends rather than you. So, trade in the drama for freakishly high data plans and you’re good to go.

    • amomynous2 October 3, 2012 at 1:52 am #

      Oh, I love this, and YOU! You were like that about homework so young?! Well, she could do much worse than to end up with your work ethic–I’ve always envied it. Wish our parenting dramas were going on in closer proximity! Thanks for reading. XOX

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