By: Shannon Ralph
Homework is the bane of my existence. It’s not that I am necessarily anti-homework. I get it. I see the value of the concept—the otherworldly, ethereal, high level, metaphysical abstraction of it. I understand the need for homework to reinforce the tiny shreds of algebraic knowledge my son’s harried teacher is able to pound into the heads of thirty inattentive eleven-year-olds. In 4th period math. Right after lunch. I get it. I do.
In reality, however, 6th grade homework is parental hell on Earth. For parents like me, it is roughly comparable to receiving three root canals, two bikini waxes, a pap smear, and a couple hours of water-boarding. All in one night. Five nights a week.
But fear not! After six years of intense research, I have devised a scientifically sound process for getting your tween to do his homework in 50 easy-to-follow steps.
- Announce that it is time to do homework.
- Take a seat at the kitchen table and wait for your tween to join you.
- When he does not come, announce again that it is time to do homework. Louder this time.
- When he still does not join you, walk into the living room and physically rip the iPad from his hands and announce again that it is time to do homework.
- When you realize that he did not follow you into the kitchen, return to the living room to find him staring slack-jawed at the television.
- Without saying a word, turn off the television.
- Ignore the cries of injustice from your other children who were also staring slack-jawed at the television.
- Watch as your tween searches through the various and sundry crumpled piles of paper in his backpack in search of his math homework.
- After ten minutes have passed, grab the bag from him and find it yourself. It will likely be right on top of the stack of crumpled pages.
- Comment naively on how easy this is going to be since he only has to complete one page of algebra.
- As he stares at you blankly for direction, suggest that he begin by grabbing a pencil.
- When he looks around the room in a state of utter confusion, gently remind your tween that the pencils have been kept in the same kitchen drawer since he was in kindergarten.
- Resist the urge to scream when he bypasses the shiny new sharpened pencils and instead grabs a tiny nub of a pencil that he can barely hold.
- As he futilely drags shards of wood across his page, suggest that maybe he should sharpen the pencil.
- When he looks around the room in a state of utter confusion once again, gently remind him that the pencil sharpener has also been kept in the same kitchen drawer since he was in kindergarten.
- As your tween jams the nub of a pencil into the sharpener, a tiny piece of pencil lead will undoubtedly break off and wedge itself inside the pencil sharpener, rendering it useless.
- Spend ten minutes trying to disengage the miniscule piece of lead with screwdrivers and butter knives of various sizes as your child looks on in amusement.
- Curse profusely and fling the pencil sharpener at the trash can across the room.
- Through clenched teeth, request that your child choose another—sharpened—pencil from the plethora of school supplies available to him.
- When he has pencil in hand and announces that he doesn’t know what to do, read the directions aloud.
- Resist the urge to seize his pencil and shove it in your eyeball when you read the words “Show your work.”
- When he says he still does not know what to do, read the directions aloud a second time with increased intensity and added stress on each word.
- When your child asks you to define “greatest common factor,” pretend that you remember this term from 30 years ago, but refuse to give him the answer because he “should figure it out” himself.
- Tell your tween yes, he can go to the bathroom, but he must come right back as he has yet to complete a single problem.
- When he does not come right back, go looking for him.
- Once again turn the television off and drag him physically back into the kitchen.
- This time, when your other children cry about injustice, scream, “Get over it!”
- Contemplate what a horrible parent you are while your child stares blankly at the page once again.
- Leave your tween at the kitchen table alone to go apologize profusely to your other children for raising your voice at them when they are mere innocents in this hellish scenario.
- When you return to the kitchen, explain to your tween that it is physically impossible that he has to go to the bathroom again because 1.) He has not consumed a single drop of liquids since going 5 minutes ago, 2.) He does not have kidney disease that you are aware of, and 3.) He is not leaving the table again until his math homework is done even if that means catheterizing his skinny little ass.
- Apologize for using the word “ass.”
- Spend 15 minutes engaging in an off-topic discussion about body image. Assure him there is nothing wrong with being skinny and it was inappropriate of you to call him skinny.
- Apologize for calling your child skinny.
- An hour later, breathe an audible sigh of relief when your child finishes the final math problem on the page.
- Despite every instinct to the contrary, ask to check your child’s homework.
- Say a silent Our Father, three Hail Marys, and a couple of Pledge of Allegiances that your child’s answers will be correct.
- Renounce religion altogether when 50% of the responses are not even close.
- Request that your child erase the wrong answers and try again.
- When he tries to erase the page with a pencil completely lacking an eraser and inevitably rips the page, console him with a disingenuous “There, there.”
- Rather than wasting the time it would surely take to have him choose another pencil that is both sharpened and includes an eraser, grab one for him.
- As he flings his head on the table in frustration, erase the page for him.
- Grab a piece of scrap paper to use to complete the problems
- Once you have completed all twenty algebra problems while your child merely grunts in occasional agreement, ask him to copy the answers from the scrap paper to his homework page, thereby “showing his work.”
- When he whines about merely copying the answers over, allow a growl to escape your lips that is at once menacing and undeniably deranged.
- When your child stubbornly ignores the growl warning and continues to pout about recopying the answers, scream like a demon banshee from the pits of hell.
- Make certain that the windows are open so the entire neighborhood can hear your maniacal shrieks.
- Stand over your child, foaming at the mouth, until every last problem has been neatly copied to his homework page.
- When it is all over, apologize for growling and shrieking like some sort of caged leviathan.
- Gingerly place your child’s completed math assignment in his math folder and zip up his backpack with a sense of unbridled accomplishment.
- Burst into uncontrollable, snotty sobs when your child excitedly says, “Oh yeah, mom. I signed up for the Science Fair today.”
Photo Credit: Anna Gutermuth