Intersections – One ugly night of homework
By Nicki Salcedo, contributor
I’m one of the few parents who doesn’t mind homework. I understand that too much can create stress. But I wonder if the stress is on the kids or on the parents. I play it cool. My kids either get their homework done or they don’t. If they need my help, they ask for it. Otherwise I don’t see their work.
One of my kids spent all last year not doing homework. There were consequences. Doing it in class or doing the same work over and over again while the class moved ahead. I didn’t intervene because homework is not my responsibility.
I’ve decided that there are four types of kids when it comes to homework: Doers, Donters, Half-assers, and Fretters. Playing it cool means, I try my best to ignore.
One of my kids is definitely a Doer. The homework gets done without me knowing about it.
“I did it on the bus,” I’ll hear. I never see this kid doing homework, but the grades are good enough and I haven’t seen any notes from the teacher.
Younger ones tend to be Doers. They see their big siblings doing homework. My youngest has been bringing homework to school since she was three. She would write out her letters or numbers or draw a picture of a squirrel riding a heart. She has been waiting forever for homework. This is proof of being a big kid. Now she has homework and she loves it. My guess is that she will continue to be a Doer.
I have a donter. This kid don’t do homework. Won’t do homework. If asked if there is homework, will always answer, “No.”
“Check your backpack,” I’ll say. I’m not going to play it that cool.
“Oh, yeah. I have homework.”
No $hit. This isn’t my first rodeo. Of course, you have homework.
I have nieces and nephews around town. I’ve seen every variation of doer and donter. I’ve seen the Half-assed homework. A few numbers scribbled on the page with none of the work shown or a paragraph posing as a book report.
I’ve also seen the one that really gets my goat: The homework is completed, but then the kid forgets to turn in it. WTH. At that point be a Donter, kid! Why do the work and not turn it in? My logical parent-mind can’t comprehend these things.
Let me set the record straight about a couple of misconceptions about me. That I am happy. That I am always looking for the bright side. That I am laidback. That I am nice to people. All lies. I try to do these things. I am not successful. I curse when I drive, and quite honestly, I do care about homework.
But I’m cursed. I care, but I don’t want to care. I fret, but I don’t want to fret. And worst of all, I hear everything. Not just good “mom hearing.” I can hear things freakishly far away and quiet. Like Horton heard that Who.
Something strange happened when my Donter turned into a Fretter last week.
I heard the erasing.
I was in the kitchen washing dishes and banging around plates and glasses. Over the noise, I could hear the gentle pressure of an eraser rubbing back and forth over paper. Then I heard the sound become frantic.
“Play it cool,” I told myself.
The erasing stopped, but then it started again with more force.
I walked into the room of the echoing erasing. “Everything okay in here?” I asked. Play it cool. Play it cool.
“Yes.” I heard, but I could see eraser shavings, like sawdust all over the table.
I could see the problem. Write out 920,450 in words. Nine hundred and twenty thousand, four hundred and fifty. The space on the handout could barely hold the words “Elementary school.” We were writing it out, running out of space, erasing, and writing again, and running out of space, and erasing.
Deep breath. Start counting in Portuguese.
“Why don’t you try to write it out on the scratch paper first, then transfer it to your homework page? That why you’ll see how much space you’ll need,” I said.
A moment of clarity. Some writing. Suddenly more erasing. On the scratch paper. I was making the child fretful.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
“You don’t have to erase on the scratch paper. You can just start over. It’s throw away paper.”
You know this already. Stop erasing for all that is holy. Stop! That final stop was for me.
My kid has no issue with the sound of erasing. I do not need my kid fretting. My child doesn’t care if the homework page becomes as translucent as parchment from all the erasing. Erasing creates this beautiful sense of power and control for this child. Control I didn’t need to have. I walked away.
“Good job,” I said. I stepped away. I am a tiger mom at heart. It isn’t easy to walk away and not see how the homework turned out.
I had my years of doing homework. I was a procrastinating doer. I have no right to tell them how or why to do their homework when I barely did it myself when I was a kid. I have no right to complain about homework, when I still bring work home as an adult. Isn’t that homework, too? I would probably enjoy it more if I had a pencil with an eraser.
“Intersections,” the book, is a collection of columns from Decaturish.com and beyond. It is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom. Her column, Intersections, runs every Wednesday morning.