Photo: Bonnie Jacobs
One of the many unpleasant things you aren’t warned about before having kids—like that throwing up and having bowel movements during labor is normal and that your vagina will never forgive you—is that kids come with homework.
Not only the “homework” you did prior to having them, the wills, powers of attorney and adoption paperwork you put into place to avoid emotional disaster in the unpredictable future, or the parenting books you read feverishly in the months both before and after having them. But literally homework.
From kindergarten on, you’re on the homework treadmill alongside your kid, like it or not.
I don’t. Wasn’t that the joy of graduating from college—no more homework? And now, just because I have a six year-old in first grade, I’m supposed to go back to word lists, busy work and shoebox dioramas?
This part of parenting was a surprise to me when our first kid hit five. My prior understanding was that the kid gets the homework and does the homework, end of story. In my experience, parents had more important things to do than micromanage an education, like drinking highballs, earning a living wage or having a nervous breakdown. Those things take a bite out of the day.
Though my spouse tells me that her mother supervised homework (her mom not laboring for a living, drinking hard liquor or taking time off coaching softball to go postal) so this must not be a new thing.
The school starts your indoctrination by sending home games to play with your kindergartner involving cut-up pieces of paper you inevitably lose before the game is half done. With first grade, short, boring books arrive home so your kid can read them aloud five times each—something I managed to misunderstand for most of the first semester this year, and missed entirely with our first son, who didn’t read until second grade, when Gameboy motivated him enough to give it a go.
In third grade it’s dioramas you help with, fourth grade the times tables (I recommend bribery), in fifth grade punctuation is suddenly important and you become the in-house editor, and in sixth grade they’re coloring maps and informing you how your education was biased and xenophobic and that you know nothing, but could you pick up a foam core board, six Sharpies and a map of Sweden on the way home?
I swear I love my kids, and I swear I want them well-educated, but if I have to do their homework for them I swear, so, since I think grade schoolers with potty mouths are déclassé, my own priority has always been their scholastic independence. This meant that their dioramas weren’t works of art, and that photocopied facts about native birds were often misaligned when affixed to the aforementioned foam core. But by golly they earned that grade. Not me.
Not that I’m above giving the grade an occasional nudge. Why have a writer in the house if you can’t suggest some alternative wording in a report, and yes, I edited our son’s college application essay, but on the whole, I’m happy to give homework a miss now that we have two educationally independent teens.
And a six year-old who needs to read us those short, boring books five times a night, like it or not, now that I’m in the know.
Bloggers Bio: Beren deMotier is a Carol Brady in Levis/tattooed lesbian mama in a mini-van, obsessed with safety, doing the right thing and the amount of dog hair on her wood floors. She is a regular contributor to both Curve and Black Lamb, and has written for Hip Mama, And Baby, Pride Parenting, ehow.com, and for her blog, “That Lesbian Mom Next Door.” Her multi-award-winning book, The Brides of March: Memoir of a Same-Sex Marriage, recounts her giddy leap through a legal window, straight onto the barbeque pit of public debate when she and her partner married in Oregon in 2004, their three children along for the raucous ride. For the whole skinny, visit berendemotier.com.