Published on November 4th, 2015 | by Richard Black0
My daughter has been in kindergarten for a just few months and I’ve already spent an inordinate amount of time helping her with her homework. I should probably clarify that by “inordinate” I mean about 14 hours. It might not seem like a huge burden but I’ve got a lot to do these days now that Darcy is in school like eradicating my home from pantry moths and lice. I’m also thinking about putting on a lot of weight but that’s really beside the point.
The entire time I was in school, from kindergarten to my senior year, I estimate that my parents spent about six hours in totality “helping” me with my homework. A first it was my mother who took up the challenge. Around first grade she sacrificed two grueling hours of her life in an attempt to help me understand the nuances of subtraction, a feat I still wrestle with to this very day.
Addition was never a problem. I could count on my fingers and toes if I were posed with the question “what is four plus five?” In word questions I never concerned myself with why Suzy or Johnny or Rachel would want to give me five apples or three oranges or seven morning after pills. If I had four of whatever it was and they were compelled to give me a few more then life was good. I was a pretty great kid and never questioned their benevolence.
Subtraction was an entirely different matter altogether. If I had nine apples and Suzy took four I didn’t focus so much on how many apples I had left but why Suzy would want four apples in the first place? What in the hell was she going to do with four apples? Did she have a fetish? Was she a hoarder. Did she jam them in her keyster? I quickly concluded that I was not a fan of subtraction or Suzy and her ilk. My grades in mathematics went from a B or so to a D at which point my mother intervened and drilled me with flash cards until I learned how to “subtract” entirely by rote memory.
For the rest of my term in school my parents spent a sum total of four hours “assisting” me with my homework. It doesn’t sound like much but that’s because it was a simpler time when kids were expected to fail much more often and our parents were usually too drunk to provide us with any meaningful help anyway. Most of that time was spent nagging (Did you do your homework? You need to do your homework. If I’ve had seven martinis on an empty stomach do you still need to do your homework?) rather than any actual instruction.
Around Freshman year in high school my grades in geometry did an imitation of Keith Moon diving into a pool. If you’re too young to know what that means then Google it. I promise it’s funny and in poor taste. My father was the unfortunate soul who chose to intervene and we began the most frustrating and embarrassing three hours of my life. For proprieties sake and the last shreds of my dignity I’ll forgo detailing the event. Suffice it to say that by the time midnight rolled around we both realized that the odds of my understanding the most simple tenants of geometry were on par with those of my father teaching lemmings to speak Farsi. It was a humbling moment for both of us and one we’ve both had the aplomb to never speak of since.
It should come as no surprise that I await the moment, probably around second grade, when Darcy concludes that she understands the fundamentals of subtraction better than her old man with trepidation if not outright fear. I tend to view the nuances of mathematics the way churchgoers believe in a higher power. I’m sure it’s there but that’s about as far as my understanding goes.
Fortunately for my sake mathematics in kindergarten is on a level I can get. It usually involves counting or sorting dried beans or paperclips or paperclips that have beans strung through them or beans with paperclips strung through them. I’m not really sure what the purpose is but, as I’ve mentioned, I’m not all that good with maths or, apparently, the grammars as well.
It turns out that math is the easy part, a phrase I never thought I’d ever write. Occasionally Darcy comes home with a project that entails a more…lengthy amount of time on both our parts. Think days instead of hours. The last was a paper mock up of a balloon in eight sections each of which required a response to questions like “what is your favorite celebrity?” or “If you could tell the world anything what would you say?”
These are all great questions but somewhat challenging when it comes to the mind of a five year old. If you’re looking for a reason to start drinking or smoking then I heartily recommend you try to explain the concept of “celebrity” to a kindergartner.
“Daddy what does famous mean?”
“Well it’s someone that a lot of people know.”
“Anna likes Jesus.”
“Like Jesus Christ or that Latino boy in your class?”
“Anna says he makes people into zombies. I like zombies. Is Jesus famous?”
“Uhhhhh. Sure. Do you want me to write down ‘Jesus’?”
“I like Elsa too.”
“Then let’s go with that.”
Darcy dutifully wrote down the name “Elsa” and, in my well intentioned idiocy, I decided to look through a few hundred magazines for Elsa, Anna or anything even remotely associated with the movie “Frozen”. After three hours I had found, precisely, nothing. Not even a dirty snow pile or a melting glacier. I turned to Google and, in a moment of desperation, searched for “Frozen Elsa”. I cannot stress this enough. Do not ever, ever, ever enter the words Frozen and Elsa into a search engine without engaging the safe search feature.
Fortunately Darcy wasn’t around for the…unusual and remarkably disturbing barrage of images I witnessed. Unfortunately the things I have seen cannot be unseen.
I really enjoy helping my daughter with her homework and by “really” I mean “only after I’ve had a bottle of cough syrup”. The truth is that I’d rather jump up and down on my balls than spend three hours prodding/helping/and occasionally doing Darcy’s homework. I love my daughter but by the time she’s done a full day in kindergarten and hit the playground in lieu of eating lunch she’s a crabby, crying, hungry mess. Coaxing my daughter to do anything other than nag me for a snack or watch TV in the afternoon is a task of Herculean proportions.
Like waking my daughter early in the morning when I’d cheerfully sell a kidney for just twenty more minutes of sleep, prodding Darcy to finish her homework ranks amongst the cruelest of ironies. I didn’t like homework thirty years ago or rising at 6:00 a.m. to greet the day and my enthusiasm for performing both activities hasn’t increased in the intervening years.
Once she’s older with children of her own I hope my daughter empathizes with my plight. With any luck she won’t have to read the large section of my memoirs I’ve devoted to the difficulties I’ve undergone for her sake. At that point I’ll probably be suffering from dementia and living with her full time just to return the favor.