Jamie Elliott Grossman

Posts Tagged ‘Elementary School’

December 2, 8:16 p.m.

In Them! Them! Wonderful Them! on December 2, 2011 at 7:09 am

At precisely 8:16 this evening, my little boy will turn eight years old. Eight. Wow. Eight! As cliché as it sounds, I cannot help but wonder where all the time has gone. It seems like just yesterday when I was holding him close on my shoulder in the hospital, waiting to be discharged, nervous about whether I could place him in the car seat properly, softly singing “You are my Sunshine” in his ear. And now I can barely lift him. He is all puppy arms and legs, and solid as a rock. A big second grader who reads, writes, loves math and science and tae kwon do. I love this beautiful kid with every fiber of my being and sometimes, more than I would like to admit really, I fear that I am fucking it all up with him. Because I worry. A lot. Almost all the time.

Being a mother is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Getting pregnant, giving birth, passing the bar exam, commuting five hours a day to New York and back—all that stuff pales in comparison to the day to day work in the trenches of parental life. As a kid when you did something stupid, irresponsible or dangerous, your parents would say at the end of almost every lecture, “Just you wait until you have children of your own, then you will understand” as you rolled your eyes.  And of course you didn’t understand, you didn’t want to understand as a kid, you just wanted to live the fantasy… and then BAM! just like that, you have a child of your own, and then you get it. No amount of parenting guidebooks, websites, support groups, whatever, can ever ever prepare you for this gig. Though parenting has been around for thousands of years, for each new parent, it is a case of first impression.

The whole being pregnant thing is such a tease. The GAP, Babies R Us, and A Pea in the Pod make it look like being a parent is such an easy breezy blast. The hip and cool maternity clothes, the to-die-for layette, and the registry! It’s like getting married all over again. As a pregnant woman, you walk down the street and other women smile at you warmly, people get up and give you seats on the bus and pieces of fruit, people look for excuses to chit-chat with you and rub your belly. You are magic and light, for you are creating life… you glow, your hair looks amazing, and you get away with lots of shit you might not ordinarily but for that bun in the oven…And yes you do worry, you forego salami and sushi (listeria and bacteria!), you give up lattes and cocktails (caffeine dependency and fetal alcohol syndrome!). You pray each time you see the doctor that you will hear the wonderful rapid thump-thump thumping of that tiny heart. You freak out from each and every test, from the risk ratios and the amnios and then the thought of contractions and the epidural in your spine and labor and delivery and whether your doctor is on call or not the night you go into labor and about pooping on the table (!)….

But nothing, absolutely nothing compares to the level of worry that you experience when that baby is actually in your arms. I recall as if it was just yesterday how anxious I felt holding my son in those early days. I felt like he wasn’t mine, like he was a delicate objet d’art that that I, the bumbling fool, was not qualified to hold.  I worried I was not cradling his head and neck right, I worried he was not getting enough milk, I worried about SIDS, I worried about colic, I worried that he was too hot, then I worried he was too cold, I worried that I would crush him in my sleep, I worried about him sleeping alone in his crib, I had butterflies with each slippery baby bath (it never was calm and loving like it looks in those Johnson & Johnson commercials). I worried when I went back to work and left him with a nanny, I worried when I left him with the next nanny because the first one didn’t work out. I worried when we left him in day care. The minutes I spent worrying were agony to me. In the deepest throes of my anxiety about my baby and my shoddy parenting, the only way I could get down from my ledge was to hold out hope that as he got older, there would be some inverse relationship between his age and my worrying. But eight years in, I am finding that it is not true.

Getting to know my son, as he also figures himself out has been really challenging for me. And it has also been truly eye opening. You think that when you have a baby that he will simply be the best pieces of you and your “baby daddy”. That he will be a mini version of you. A mini version of you that does not possess all the horrible shit you hate about yourself. After all, he’s got your great hair, your pointy ears, your coloring, therefore it should hold true that he will like sushi, baseball, and tuna salad. But that is such a Pollyanna (or is it narcissistic?) view of things. And it also completely discounts that your child is a unique individual in his own right. So it is not right or fair of me to get upset when he doesn’t like the baked ziti or chicken marsala that I have made because they “taste weird and googly in my mouth” when I find both of those meals scrumptious. And it is not right or fair for me to get pissed when he tells me that he does not like elbow shaped pasta nor spirals nor wagon wheels but only penne when I could give a rat’s ass what shape the pasta is in as long as it’s cooked al dente. And it is not fair of me to scratch my head befuddled when he tells me that he does not really like going to the movies or eating hamburgers or baseball and instead likes sketching, PB & J and tae kwon do.

So there is still worry. I worry that he is not eating enough of the food pyramid and that somehow he is malnourished and it is all my fault. I worry that he is not a big fan of America’s favorite pastime and that he won’t experience the joy of having a catch with me in the backyard like I did with my father and it will scar him for life. I worry that I am fucking everything up by worrying so much.

I had lunch with my mother yesterday. She and my son have a truly special bond, for she was right there at 8:16 p.m. on that freezing December night to lay witness to his entry into this world… It was my mother who cut his umbilical cord because I think my husband was somewhere on the floor in an unconscious puddle. She tells me that I do worry way too much. That kids are weird and picky and stubborn and difficult. But that just because this may be true, there is generally no need to go to the “bad place” where my worrying tends to take me… Now that I am a parent in my own right, her anecdotes about parenting my sister and me are like precious gold. They help me down from the ledge. Over lunch my mother told me that my sister and I were such fucking pains in the asses about eating that at one point she would just cook dinner (chicken, lamb chops… whatever) and because sometimes we would look at her like she had served us heaping platefuls of fresh steaming shit (even though we might have found the chicken or lamb chops or whatever delectable just a day before), she would take the plates of fresh-from-the-oven food and hurl them unceremoniously into the garbage and storm off leaving us to fend for ourselves. And then over a nice bottle of wine she proceeded to regale me with stories of me being afraid of my own shadow, of the shit fits I would throw when she (infrequently) left me with a babysitter, of me sneaking into her room each and every night and laying on the floor because I was scared of the dark or the thunder or the monster in my closet or of absolutely nothing, of me declaring I was no longer eating anything red, of me running away on a weekly basis and then coming back because I was hungry ten minutes later, of me punching her in the stomach the day she came home with my baby sister who she delivered via C-section. And this was just 1979. Boy did she have major grounds to worry.

In conclusion, on what will be my son’s eighth birthday, I want him and all of you to know that I think the world of him. His smile is like the sunshine. His hugs and kisses are simply the best. He teaches me about life every minute of every day. He gives me pause. He is beautiful, whip-smart, kind-hearted and good. He is goofy and funny and curious and quirky. He is the best big brother I have ever seen. And I feel so very blessed and lucky that this kid calls me “Mom “and still wants to hold my hand in public.

Happy happy birthday, Sweetheart.  I love you so very much. May all of your dreams come true. Except for the ones about playing pro football (traumatic brain injuries!) and the other ones (you may or may not yet be having) involving buxom shiksas named Brittany (VD and teen pregnancy!). I’d like to promise you that I won’t worry, but I can’t say that in good conscience, but I can pray that I don’t fuck you up all that much.

Holy Second Grade, Batman!

In Humor, Them! Them! Wonderful Them! on September 21, 2011 at 8:06 am

The second grader started school two weeks ago and so far, so good, or so I naively thought until I attended “Back to School” night last week. I swear I left my son’s school that night feeling as stressed out and anxious as I did while studying for the New York State Bar Exam years ago. For I fear that there is going to be a lot of work involved in the second grade. And the second grader is not going to have it so easy, either.

In second grade, each student receives an “agenda”… essentially a day planner to get the kids in the habit of writing down their homework assignments each day. This is an excellent thing to teach kids, for I am a major list maker, calendar keeper and possess a strong affinity for planners, agendas, and the like… But with the second grader’s agenda, I am obliged to attest in ink that I have taken an active and participatory role in his homework-doing by duly executing said agenda every single day in the spaces provided. As his reward for obtaining my daily John Hancocks, my second grader accumulates gold stars or some such which, when a certain level of compliance is reached, have the potential of turning into some sort of cool prize. So it would appear that the second grader’s success in second grade is inextricably woven together with and hinges perilously upon my ability to be an active and participatory parent.

I totally dig the second grader’s teacher. She is soft-spoken and low-key, in fact I think she might have even been wearing Birkenstocks during Back to School Night. She’s into encouraging the students’ independence and told us that she feels it is her job to turn our baby second graders into big strong third graders by year’s end. She also made it clear that the students are responsible for ensuring that their agendas are signed by their parents. I was so relieved….for this took some of the pressure off.

But then she mentioned something I found a bit more troublesome… with each child she was sending home a math textbook expressly for home use so that we (the parents) can teach them (our children) math. Whoa… Wait just a cotton-pickin’ minute!  A math textbook?  For me to teach my kid math? What the fuck just happened here? I considered this seemingly cool teacher as I was hunched over my second grader’s smallish desk, and thought to myself that this woman had a lot of chutzpah making all sorts of assumptions about my math ability and my ability to be patient for that matter. So while sitting at my second grader’s desk on Back to School night, uncomfortably in his little second grader chair I might add, I sheepishly looked around the classroom at the other parents to see if the emotion of horror had registered on anyone else’s face besides mine. For the last time I opened a math textbook was well over twenty years ago and I think it gave me hives or scabies or scurvy or something. Then sure enough a few days later the second grader ambled off the bus and handed me a large-ish oversized math textbook and said, “Here Mom, this book’s for you.”

No doubt some of you will get the very wrong idea that I am a slacker mother who wants this whole child rearing gig to kinda run on autopilot, and you would not be wrong to a certain degree. However, I really do want to be and am present for assistance in all sorts of homework and projects and chauffeuring. I derailed my career for this very privilege. But where I feel I must draw the line is at what appears to be a dangerously close flirtation with what smacks of homeschooling and in math of all subjects.

As I have mentioned previously, I am not made of the same stuff that teachers are made of. I am surly, impatient, and downright rude if I say so myself, and I hated homework. So fourteen years after I slammed my last textbook shut forever (or so I thought), I find myself the uppity and not at all grateful recipient of this big heavy math textbook and I am bristling at the notion that I have apparently been deputized a de facto math teacher. It has been many many years since I have “done math” and like my parents before me, I am certain that the math my second grader will be doing is that “new math” and since I could barely do the old “new math” of my day there really is nowhere good for this to go. The teacher, who proudly stated she loves math, mentioned something about a revolutionary new approach to teaching math: as opposed to good ol’ rote learning, now the kids will be learning how to “math think.” I am not sure whether my brain can actually “math think” at this stage in my life because I suspect that the section of my brain that once held all the math is now being occupied by song lyrics from the 80s and 90s. But out of a sick curiosity tinged with hints of guilt from my shitty attitude, the other night after everyone was asleep I sat down and flipped through this textbook and breathed a sigh of relief because for now this seems do-able; they are learning how to tell time on an analog clock. After looking up “analog clock” on Wikipedia, I felt reasonably confident that I could handle this.

Finally, in the second grade there will be spelling. Thank g-d because I was getting a little worried that all this school was good for was teaching phonetic spelling and that I would forever have to suffer through homework filled with “kreetshure” and “chawklit” and “appel”…. I am a pretty decent speller despite the fact that I periodically experience vicious flashbacks of my fifth grade spelling bee where I was eliminated during the final round because the winning word was “seize” and not “sees” or “seas”. But last year when I would review my kid’s homework, I would have to bite down hard on a pencil to stifle my screams from his g-d awful spelling. When people spell words incorrectly, to me it is akin to fingernails on a black board and it drives me crazy. But I seem to recall reading somewhere that good spelling is a gift you are either born with or not, which of course begs the question, if you are destined to be a shitty speller by genetics, why even bother trying to fight destiny at all? Anyway, every Friday the class gets a list of words to learn and study during the week, and then they will be tested on the following Friday. Where I come in is in the studying of these words and it seems that once again I have to be V.E.R.Y. VERY involved. We parents were given two single spaced typed sheets with explicit instructions on how all this learning of the spelling words is to go down. The students are to pick an activity every day from a list of over 20 possibilities to help them learn the words on the list… like making a crossword puzzle, or crafting the words using Popsicle sticks, or spelling the words using alphabet pasta, or writing the words in sugar, sand or shaving cream. What happened to good old-fashioned flash cards? This is so very different from the way I used to study for spelling tests, it almost sounds like fun. So this past weekend, in the spirit of being an active and participatory parent, I ate 400 creamsicles, I purchased ten bags of alphabet pasta, and even turned a blind but twitching eye to a nightmare of a shaving cream mess on my new floors all in the name of helping my kid ace the spelling test this week. And I dutifully signed the agenda in the spaces provided, proving to the world and to my second grade teacher that I did so.

A mother’s education.

In Them! Them! Wonderful Them! on July 7, 2011 at 8:02 am

I am a woman who comes from women… I have a sister and no brothers. My mother had a sister and no brothers. Their mother, my grandmother, had two sisters and no brothers. My cousins are sisters; there are no brothers…My poor dad… all that estrogen… but he seemed to make it through relatively unscathed. I often wonder though whether we were enigmas to him…

Why I bring this up is that I broke the mold when I gave birth to my son…Until he came along, I didn’t know from boys, not having had them in close proximity growing up. It’s a miracle I could actually settle down and mate with my husband, because relating to boys on the whole was not one of my strong suits. They are such unknown quantities to me…

I know girls. Girls trade stickers, have sleepovers, play Barbie dolls. They can make best friends or worst enemies. They teach you how to accessorize, straighten your hair, use a tampon and write a love note to a secret crush. They dance in your living room, play with makeup, spend hours on the telephone. Girls are fickle and catty. Girls scan each other head to toe, looking for flaws. They can be gossip whores with serpents’ tongues and total bitches who steal your man…But they can also be fiercely loyal, bosom-friends. In general, girls do not need to know how to kick ass in their day to day activities. Girls are familiar territory to me. I am, after all, one of them.

Boys  on the other hand are alien creatures to me. They are like a box of squirmy puppies; they jump on furniture, pee on the floor (by accident) and they snore. Legos can keep some of them entertained for hours and dissecting bugs on the driveway is a fascinating sport. They like to talk about boogers and burps and the mere mention of a fart drives them to hysterics. Boys don’t care if their clothes match or if their socks are dirty. They love to be outside, their fingers are big and there is always dirt under their nails….Boys are very physical. They are measured against one another by how athletic they are. They need to know self defense moves and this is all so unfamiliar to me.

But I am a mother to a boy and I really do not want to screw it up. My son is seven years old. He is, by all accounts, a total boy, known to jump all over the furniture and pee on the bathroom floor (by accident). He snores, wears mismatched clothes. He loves to run around outside. He eats an enormous amount of cheese, can play Legos for hours on end and has been known to chop an ant in half to examine the pieces in his microscope. My son is also an extremely gentle soul (despite the ant-chopping); a thinking, considerate, kind person, and wiser beyond his tender age. He is never one to raise his hands to another, but he is a defender of his family and friends. He doesn’t push, punch, pinch or spit on others for no reason. He waits his turn, says please and thank you, is a great student and his smile is like the sunshine. He studies tae kwon do and as a red belt, he is very good at it.

As a mother to a little boy, he is my case of first impression. On the one hand, I want him to be a kind good person who does not need to resort to violence. I have been grappling with the right lessons to teach him on this issue these past years and I am finding it to be a difficult and delicate balance to strike. I don’t want him to be an aggressor or bully, nor do I want him to be a doormat, victim, or tattle-tale. But he is only seven and I am his mother. I used to teach him the “talk it out” method when another child raised his hands to him. Then I wove in some assertiveness, “yell loudly at the child to stop, then tell your teacher and me”….

My husband is of the philosophy that boys need to defend themselves against bullies. I used to express my dislike of this philosophy very loudly—no son of mine needs to know how to punch, block, fight—talking it out should work just fine. Of late, I am experiencing a major paradigm shift on this issue. Whereas a rational appeal and “talking it out” might seem like good start, my husband says that a good talk with a physically menacing bully will generally result in an ass-kicking. He says he knows from experience.

There is a child in my son’s class who keeps touching him inappropriately. First it was a poke with a pointy pencil. I immediately contacted the teacher and told my son that if this boy should bother him again that next time he should yell very loudly at the child to stop, even if that means the teacher gets upset. Next it was an attempted punch to my son’s groin during lunch. My son used a tae kwon do block to protect himself and I was simultaneously proud of him and shocked by the incident. I again contacted the teacher to report what had happened (she is not present at lunch) and was informed that she would be addressing this issue immediately. My son came home that day and was quieter, withdrawn. He was clearly rattled by the experience. The most recent offense came yesterday, again at lunch, a hard punch to my son’s arm. My son responded with a knee to the kid’s nuts. The thought of my young son, my baby, just sitting there minding his own business and trying to eat lunch when this kid hauls off and punches him breaks my heart. In trying to process it all, I decidedly came down in favor of my son’s actions, though the thought of it clearly rattled me.

I called the teacher and the principal immediately and let them know that this situation is intolerable and that something must change with respect to this boy and his seemingly lack of self control and somehow to weave in a reminder than both my husband and I were attorneys (something I am loath to do in general) . While I am proud that my son seemed to know how to take care of himself, I am horrified that he has to in first grade. Now he tells me in the mornings he does not want to go to school because of this aggressive, out of control boy. It is just so sad. And infuriating. My son should feel safe at school and this boy should be removed from it, in my opinion. But no amount of talking will stop this kid from bothering my son. It is time for an intervention, and this boy’s parents need to be held accountable.

I must admit that I would like to throttle this boy and tell his parents what time it is. I am so very angry I could spit nails, or knee someone in the nuts. But I will not do any of this, of course. I will wait patiently for the teacher and principal to return my calls and present their solutions. I will support my son, encourage him to go to school with his head held high, to continue to defend himself in any way he sees fit if this boy bothers him again and tell him that his mama’s got his back.

The snowy day. (Oldie)

In Humor, Them! Them! Wonderful Them! on July 5, 2011 at 8:00 am

It is 7:47 p.m. and I have somehow managed to avoid the usual interminable bedtime routine with the beloved toddler. I am truly amazed; I could actually do a celebratory jig! My childhood friend has been encouraging me not to block her on Facebook and moreover, not to give up on “drink & go.” And even though I was thisclose to abandoning ship and just moving my bed into the toddler’s room until 2027, I decided that I would give it one more try. I continue to make tweaks to “drink & go,” and this time I think it truly was for the better. I selected a very nice 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and to my surprise, it seems to have produced vastly improved results over the Beaujolais Nouveau of a few nights’ previous. As an unexpected bonus, it also complemented the Moroccan Chicken and Chick Pea dish that I made for supper quite nicely.

Schools were closed today due to yet another snowstorm, so it was pajama day all day! While the husband was outside fulfilling his manly duties of snow removal, the first grader and I decided to play the card game “Uno.” (The toddler was left to her own devices to create all sorts of mayhem with matches and knives.) I must say that I am highly skilled at “Uno,” I am a ruthless competitor and I wiped the floor with the boy, my triumph swift and certain. I showed no mercy; I don’t give a flying fig that the kid is only seven and that he just learned how to play the game yesterday. When I play, I play to win, and win I did, my friends. I have my very own victory dance to prove it.

After the game was over, we were laying around on the carpet in the living room, contemplating our next move and staring at the ceiling when the first grader asks, “Hey, um, Mom? What does ‘mother fucker’ mean?” I inhale deeply, bite down hard on my lower lip, pause and consider the question, while simultaneously noticing the G-d awful cobwebs that have collected on the chandelier above me and ponder two things: 1) how the hell am I going to get up there and dust those cobwebs and 2) how on earth am I going to answer the kid’s question.

I know that this question is just another example of the kid’s innate and insatiable curiosity about the world. It’s no different than his questions of years past such as, why is water wet; if birds can fly, and planes are heavier than birds, how do they fly but people can’t; what happens inside a car’s engine to make it go; and where does the water, etc., go when you flush it down the toilet? To these questions, while I cannot give off the cuff authoritative lectures about chemistry, aerodynamics, auto-mechanics and waster water management, I can take him to the library to get books on the topic, or at the very least we can Google these things to get our answers. And this satisfies him. I have no problems admitting I don’t have all the answers. And as parents, I don’t think that is our role, to have all the answers. My job the way I see it, is to set boundaries, to listen, to love and to give him the tools so one day he grows up to be a good, smart, loving, competent person.

But this question, this one is a bit different. You see, while I have admitted to you that I tend to say S-curse with somewhat reckless abandon in front of my children and that I do believe in the utility of certain swear words as long as they are used in the proper context, this particular word is troublesome. It is a dangerous, mean, nasty word, or rather, two words, (or is a hyphenated word?) and truth be told, I really haven’t the foggiest idea what it means. I know that when one is trying to sound gangsta-tough and scary, it’s a good word to reach for in a fight… or maybe even if you are exasperated after forty-five minutes of trying to speak to an actual human being while trapped in an automated phone hell with your credit card company.

I’m not sure that the library would have any age appropriate books on the topic and I imagine any of the films with this term in the title are neither educational nor rated “G.” I guess I could just Google it. But I don’t Google this word. I just can’t. Instead, I tell my son that this word is a very nasty, mean word that no little boy or girl should ever, ever say. I tell him that while I am an adult and can say some bad words, that this word in particular I do not even say. What troubles me is that I know with certainty that neither I nor my husband have ever deliberately said this word in front of him. So I ask him where he has heard this word and then further challenge him to use it in a sentence. He reports that “a bunch of kids” in his class say this word “like, all the time.”

“Wow.” I think to myself. Then I demand that he name names and I further go on to insult and degrade each and every child he names and his or her family and denounce them as depraved devils incarnate (yes, this is me acting all indignant and majorly offended by a swear word, but I already told you where I draw my line). I ask him, “and where is your teacher when all of this is happening?” To which he replies, “Um, I’m not sure.” “Oh, ok,” I say. While I am processing this, and imagining a lawless classroom filled with flying Chinese stars, semi-automatic weapons, empty bottles of JD and cuss words, a couple of beats pass and then he presses again, “So, Mom? Are you gonna tell me what it means?” And I fire back really just to buy myself some more time, “Before I tell you what it means, let me hear you try and use it in a sentence.”

I know that I have to be a good parental role model here. I know that I have to steer him clear of this word, show him the light, but it’s out there now and he knows about it. I can’t shield him in a bubble despite his tender age, no matter how much I would like to do so. At the same time, I don’t think at seven that he is ready or mature enough to handle some of the stuff he will have to handle when he is just a bit older. And I really don’t want to insult his intelligence, or just say something like “because I said so,” or “it’s a bad word, wanna eat some cookies?” He’s too smart for that and I am the type of parent who thinks the truth is usually the best course of action. Like I don’t call private body parts by their stupid little names, it’s confusing and annoying. I say “penis” and “vagina” and we all just move on…. But I have to admit, this one has thrown me for a loop.

I swear to G-d, while we are on the floor talking about “mother fuckers,” my mind is racing desperately trying to come up with something parental and helpful to say to him. This is a moment for teaching, after all. I’m not sure whether it is out of nervousness or just plain old immaturity, but I suddenly start to have a weird daydream in which all of my obligatory parental duties have flown out the window and I answer him like a fifteen year old smart-ass, “Well son, the definition of mother fucker is, well… that would be your father, heh heh heh.” And it gets worse, the daydream progresses with the first grader then using the term in actual sentences, saying things like, “Hey Mom, is that mother fucker coming home from work tonight in time for supper? He needs to help me with my algebra.” or “Mom, who is taking me to tae kwon do, you or that mother fucker?”

Oy vey, it is too much, this being a parent. It is just so stressful; it feels like you have to dodge arrows every minute of every day. So I look at my beautiful son, take his hands in mine and simply explain to him that that word is a very, very nasty word, that he should never ever say it because I said so, and that I do not care who in his class is saying it, he is still not to say it. Ever. I skirt around providing him with a definition and ask him if he wants to go have some milk and cookies. And I was truly grateful for this snowy day because at least it kept my son away from those first grade mother fuckers for one more day.

Homework, BOO! I mean, YEA!

In Humor, Them! Them! Wonderful Them! on June 10, 2011 at 8:35 am

The first grader comes home every night (except Fridays) with homework. He started getting homework in kindergarten, and the first few times he came home with it he held it up to me and said excitedly, “Mommy look! I have homework!” I have to admit I think I might have snorted, thinking that it was absolutely ridiculous for a kindergartener to get homework. After all, kindergarten was supposed to be the first foray for most kids into what life is like away from Mommy and Daddy; a place for children previously untamed by any sort of preschool program to become, shall we say, domesticated. Kindergarten is supposed to introduce these unformed little humans to new concepts like waiting in line, raising one’s hand, holding it in, coloring in the lines, and using but not eating glue. At least that is what my fuzzy recollection about it recalls.

But today’s kindergartner is very different from when I was a kid. From my observations, by the time today’s children reach kindergarten, most of them have been in years of preschool or daycare, or a two’s program, or a mommy and me plus program, or a Romance Language infusion program with supplemental Art History and classical music appreciation courses, plus cooking with a wok and/or a tandoori oven, knitting, glockenspiel and moon-spoon lessons, composting, computer programming, robotics and biochemistry and of course, exposure to each and every sport there is via intensive clinics until one is highly proficient in each and every sport there is … Plus extra tutoring to get that preschool “edge”… These are very advanced children. And they scare me. And now there is full day kindergarten, because two hours a day of play and holding it in is just not enough anymore for these kids…

Lest you get the wrong idea, I am all for education, I have an advanced degree for heaven’s sake. I was a great student. I believe in public schools, private schools, online schools, all sorts of schools, and I want really good quality education that prepares my kids, keeps them engaged, and hopefully turns them on to something they love. I’m a paid up and active member of the G-d damned PTO and a trustee of our local education foundation. But I don’t swallow the homework Kool-Aid so easily.

And though I have a sneaking suspicion that there is a method to this seemingly meaningless madness of giving the uber-young a few moments a night of quasi-homework (I’m not stupid, after all–its purpose is to train the young tykes for the day when the homework deluge actually strikes, somewhere between third or fourth grade and sophomore year of college… Discipline, self learning, routine…blah blah blah. I get it.), but  I have to be candid; I don’t wanna deal with it…

The kindergartener of last year is now almost finished with first grade, and with the exception of the kid who kept trying to punch him (this has been taken care of, by me) for the most part he really digs school. He loves to learn, he has a curious mind, an interest in science, writing, and how things work. He likes to read, he likes to go to the library; he is, by all accounts, a terrific student with a super imagination. He even likes homework. We are simultaneously immensely proud and very relieved.

Okay, let’s go back to a couple of paragraphs above where I decree, “I was a great student.” Confession: That is a blatant lie. Total bullshit. Truth be told, I hated school. I was just really really really smart (gifted and talented even, honors student, and freakin’ National Honor Society!) and somehow easily floated through all of it successfully without really applying myself (I wonder, maybe that is my gift and talent?). I’ve often wondered where I would have ended up had I actually bothered to try… Despite my successful academic career, I hated mostly every class. I was bored to tears; my notebooks were filled with doodles and nonsensical scribbling about boys who didn’t know I was alive and prom dress designs for proms I’d never get asked to. I felt homework was a personal affront that infringed on my ability to watch my soap or gossip with my girlfriends. Reading for English class was sheer torture. I never got turned on by Shakespeare or Jane Austen or Camus… I was a “rusher.” I rushed through everything just to get it (whatever “it” was) done so I could move on to something else more interesting. Believe you me, I was no model student.  I even had the balls to concoct a fake story for a book report because I just could not stand the idea of having to read a real book and do a book report on it. (I think that this actually shows an unbelievable intellect on my part; that I would prefer to make up a book than read an actual book and to then write a report on it.) Keep in mind this was back in the days before the internet where one could get away with stunts like this…

But because I always got great grades, my crappy work ethic was never called into question. So it was a win-win from where I sat. This work ethic of mine is still with me today, only now I prefer to say that my gifts and talents lie in my ability to multitask at unbelievably high rates of speed. Accuracy be damned, but if you want a job done, and by done, I simply mean “complete” then I’m your girl…It is something I have to keep under wraps where the kid is concerned… I am a role model of sorts after all. Sometimes I have to literally bite down hard on my lip when the kid is dilly dallying (or maybe he’s simply reading and/or actually thinking) during his seven minutes of homework so I don’t scream, “Hurry up already and get this over with!” Not a good message to send to the kid…

At the bus stop when the kids come home from school, most of them gauge the goodness or badness of their day with a daily rating system based upon whether or not they got homework, complete with a defining “thumbs up” or “thumbs down,” as in, “Great day, no homework, yea!” thumbs up!  or “Bad day, we have homework, boo!” thumbs down. All except for my kid, who is a member of that third and lesser known team, “No homework, darn it!” It’s tough because the second through twelfth grade slacker girl in me is secretly aligned with the “No homework Yea!” team and she wants to jump up and down and shimmy with delight when there is no homework, but I know that I gotta keep it together and join in solidarity with my kid in his disappointment when there is no homework… or when there is a substitute teacher, or when they show another Disney movie in art class or when there is a snow day for that matter….

Look, I do my part, I am as engaged a parent as the next one. I am involved. I volunteer. A lot. I review the homework. I do the flash cards, I buy the workbooks, we go to the library, we read lots and lots of books, I teach him carrying and multiplication… I sometimes even speak to him in my fourth grade French…. I launched a literary magazine at the elementary school for crying out loud. But quite honestly my engagement and involvement is sometimes tinged with a slight bit of resentment when I have to deal with the homework, review it, and sign something as evidence that I actually reviewed it. The nerve! For I did all of this already. But I guess not exactly how they do it now, clearly. Now there are sight words and word chunks and word rings and chunky word rings and ringy wordy chunks, and math sentences and number families, and I feel like I am in school all over again, and I am all uppity and pissed off. I did not go to school to be a teacher, because I lack the all too important patience gene (so students of America, rejoice!) And all the documentaries I have ever seen about homeschooling, well, let’s just say the people look to me like they are all inbred and are in need of some serious dental work (no disrespect intended).

So in conclusion, I hate homework. I honestly do. Homework, BOO! But that is between you and me. Because my kid likes it. And I like my kid… a lot.


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