I admit: in our household, when it comes to homework I have always been the go-to parent. It’s just the way it happened once the kids started school. With the confidence – and a touch of arrogance – of one who has been to college, I had no shame in amazing my children that I could do math. In my head! I could whip off the 9's times table and the 5’s with nary a blink or hesitation. Oh, I was just that smart (to them).
And then came the day they stumped me. I want to tell you that it was a calculus problem that had me struggling, but I can’t. It was, in fact, a fourth grade word problem, which I am pretty sure are the tools of the devil to weed out the evil from the rest of us who don’t think in word problems because we don’t care how many apples Johnny has or if he shares a percentage of them with his class. I stared at this problem. I called my friends who had kids in this class. I even Googled the problem. It was unsolvable.
Try telling that to my son who stared at me with horror that suddenly I was not the all-knowing mother. I could not do this math problem. This fourth grade math problem. In order to save face, I wrote a note on the math worksheet that was something along the lines of “Are you kidding me? Why? Why would you do this?” Maybe it was just a question mark alone, but my point was made.
As it turns out, there actually was a typo that did make the problem unsolvable. Try telling that to my son. Suddenly, no matter how much I pointed out that no one – including his teacher or his father – could solve this problem, he still saw Mom as less than brilliant.
It went downhill from there.
I now have children in high school, junior high school, and elementary school.
My elementary school daughter still gleefully brings me her homework when she works on it and is in awe and thinks I am the smartest person ever when I can fly through her math questions with the ease of, well, an adult. She marvels at my spelling abilities. She thinks the fact I can read her books so well and so quickly must be some form of sorcery or magic. I still “have it” when it comes to helping her. I am the answer queen.
My junior high school son? He might come to me with English questions or with an abstract problem from one of his classes that takes “out of the box” thinking. There have been times that he approached me with an Algebra question only to be met by my confused look, cocking my head to the side in bafflement as I wordlessly point towards his father, both of us wondering what lapse in judgment caused him to come to me in the first place with such a question. Silly boy! I am not the Homework Mom anymore. I went to one of the best colleges in the state and yet when it comes to homework, I am clueless once they hit about 7th grade. Now, I am the “look it up online” or the “wait until your Dad gets home” mom when it comes to most of his homework.
My high school son? Please. The closest I get to his homework is asking if he did it, or listening to his prose for a speech tournament. We both know better than to go through the humiliation and embarrassment of having me stammer through his work only to come up with the same result I have been coming up with for years now:
Go ask your Dad.