Unfit Father

Published on October 1st, 2015 | by Richard Black

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Where Does the Time Go? Homework, the Cruelest Twist of Fate (Part I of IV)

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A father after he’s spent twenty minutes trying to “help” his daughter with her homework.

Now that I have a child I understand why my old man didn’t help me out with my homework. It wasn’t that he didn’t love me, that’s another topic for another time, it’s just that he would have preferred another hitch in Vietnam to tutoring me in basic subtraction for a few hours.

Working with a child, any child, even one’s own on any homework project is an endeavor that requires vast reserves of patience and understanding and a healthy supply of inebriants.

I estimate that my parents spent a grand total of forty minutes helping me with my homework. It sounds like a fairly small amount of time, and it was really. Most of it involved five second bursts of nagging between the ages of 14 and 17 so I suppose that when it came to frequency they did their job.

Don’t get me wrong my parents were concerned about my scholastic pursuits but I  grew up with five other brothers and sisters and my old man’s time was at a premium. Through necessity my mom and dad took an evolutionary “survival of the fittest” approach to parenting and school work. If I didn’t have the wherewithal or mental faculties to complete an assignment then that was my lot in life. The, world after, all needs ditch diggers too.

The times, regretfully, have changed. Kids now have homework in kindergarten. That’s right kindergarten.

I don’t remember much from kindergarten but I’m pretty sure there wasn’t any homework. There was a bathroom in the class, for which I was remarkably relieved, and a giant filthy shag rug the entire class slept on during nap time with which I was more ambivalent about. Our teacher’s name was Mrs. Smith. She was  108 years old, weighed about 80 pounds and looked almost, but not exactly, like a werewolf just before it changes. Her teeth, probably dentures, were also terrifyingly white. And sharp.

Again I’ve wandered off. Where was I? Ohh yes. Homework.

Before I even get to “help” my daughter with her homework, a euphemism I’ve come to abhor, I have to get her in front of her homework. It’s a cruel twist of fate for someone who avoided after school assignments the way people with IBS avoid bean and cheese burritos. Afternoons with Darcy used to be filled with Phineas and Ferb, Family Guy and even some Archer if there was time. I’m kidding of course. I’d never let my daughter watch Family Guy. The show has been any good for quite some time.

These days our time together after school goes something like this:

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Espresso! Not just for adults! If you really care about your kindergartner you’ll give her a few of these to perk her up for homework time. It’s for her education after all.

“Honey let’s do some homework,” I say in my most chipper voice.

“My legs are tired and wobbly,” Darcy whines.

“You’ll be sitting down. You’re legs will be fine.”

“I’m hungry.”

“I’ll get you an apple.”

“I want something else.”

“How about a peach?”

“I want something like a treat.”

“You can’t have a treat.”

“BUT I WANT A TRREEEEEAAAAAATTT.”

“Maybe you should just shut the fuck up and watch some,” I say and then put on something soothing like Cujo.”

An hour and a half later five o’clock has rolled, inexorably, around and Darcy hasn’t manage to rest much at all. Her eyes are the size of dinner plates, she rocks back and forth and mumbles something over and over under her breath that sound like “idon’twantadoggy, idon’twantadoggy, idon’twantadoggy”. It could be the movie but then again kids get pretty crazy when they don’t know how to relax.

After we watch our afternoon movie, usually something educational like Schindler’s List or Aliens (you never know when those bastards are going to invade), her mood seems to crash. For the life of me I can’t figure our why but it’s probably her blood sugar.

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Lifehack: syringes and other common household objects can be used to teach one’s child to count.

Whatever the cause it turns out that five in the afternoon is not an ideal time to begin a homework assignment. It’s not that the homework is that difficult. Typically the assignments involve counting dried beans, pasta, syringes, empty beer cans, old baby teeth or other sorts of things one has lying around the house.

Whatever the task Darcy is always hesitant to comply and as her complaints focus upon her exhaustion I’ve taken to giving my daughter a few espressos to perk her up a bit. Sure she might not sleep for the next four days but I take my daughter’s education quite seriously.

Occasionally though Darcy’s assignments are more…involved and pose a problem that even caffeine can’t solve. This week she was sent home with a paper mock up of a balloon requiring us to write down or paste pictures in response to eight different questions. Most were pretty easy to answer. “Who are the members of your family?” “What is your favorite food?” or “What’s your mommy’s social security number?”

Others were a bit more challenging. For example. After asking Darcy “If you could meet someone famous who would it be?” she , quite naturally, responded with a question of her own.

“What’s a celebrity?”

“Well it’s someone everyone knows.”

“Like my teacher?”

“Kind of but someone you see on television.”

“Like Elsa.”

“Sure like Elsa but someone who is real and isn’t a cartoon.”

“Elsa is real. I met her at Disneyworld.”

“Sure let’s go with Elsa,” I said instead of saying “fuck it why not?”. I’m not a monster. There are some parts of my daughter’s innocence I’m willing to preserve. I’m also a very lazy but pragmatic man who understood that he had a better chance of teaching fish to juggle dildos than explaining the concept of celebrity to his daughter.

To date no question has been more confounding than “If the world were listening what would you say?”

It took me a good thirty minutes to explain to Darcy that she wouldn’t be addressing an actual planet, that the “world” was a term that encompassed both the whirling bit of rock we live upon as well as the people who live upon it. The idea that one word could stand for two concepts almost broke my daughter’s brain. Still she’s a stubborn girl and after a few more espressos she eventually grasped the notion.

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I thought the question and my daughter’s response was sweet. Then I realized that the government, and probably the world as well, is listening as well.

“So what would you say if the world were listening?” I asked Darcy again. She pursued her lips and furrowed her brow before responding.

“Thank you for listening,” she said firmly.

I was floored. From the mouths of babes…

“Honey that was one of the wisest things I’ve ever heard,” I said once I was able to speak, “Let me help you write it down.

“Daddy?” she asked just as I took a pen to paper.

“Yes Darcy.”

“Does that mean I can have a treat?”

“Sure! How about another espresso? Daddy has some laundry he needs help sorting and you look like the girl for the job.”

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