I am beyond furious, both at myself and the twisted world we live in. My day had been going fine until the aforementioned ‘homework saga.’ We had been shopping; although I had not bought anything. We had taken the children to see a film, letting them eat far too much popcorn, crisps and sweets than a child should have in a week, let alone one day. The day was going well until I sat down to help my son with his homework.
I am supposed to be an intelligent human being, I have GCSE’S, A-Levels and a Degree for pities sake. So why can’t I help my son with his homework properly? My son, Ewan is six years old and has an endless list of homework tasks to do. It is hard to keep up. Spellings to learn for his weekly test, a reading book to read every night, a project to do at the weekend on top of many printed sheets sent in his school bag; when does he have time to just be a kid?
As being a teacher is my day job, I feel like I should support and encourage him to do it. However, the rebel in me wants to shout ‘he is six for goodness sake, let him play with his Lego and be happy’. As a parent that wants the best for their child, I feel it is obligatory for me to nag him to complete it, even though he does not want to. Getting my son to do any sort of work that involves something other than Lego, Hot Wheels cars and YouTube is a massive challenge that involves frequent nagging, threats of favourite toy disposal and when neither methods work, using my best ‘I mean it’ shout voice. Who am I kidding; I get my husband to do the shouting as my shouts are about as useful as a chocolate teapot.
‘Come on, let’s get this homework done.’ I say as I slide up next to my son as he pulls the little side table towards him. My husband is making a tea for himself and a latte for me, on hearing my offer to help my son, he shouts from the kitchen, ‘I will do it with him after I have done this’. I should have been an apathetic mother and just let my husband do it; he would have got it right. ‘I’m fine, I have got this.’ I shouted in a confident tone. ‘He has to read the story and answer the questions properly,’ he continues is a voice filled with caution. ‘I’ve got this, I do have an A Level in English’ I say, a slight tinge of condescension in my voice. If only I knew better.
‘Have you read all of the story Ewan?’ I asked in a voice that implies I am the authority on doing homework. ‘Yes, I have read it Mum’ Ewan rolls his eyes and sighs as he says this, he is used to having to answer what he believes are obvious questions.
‘Question one, where does Mary live?’ I asked.
‘In a pink house.’ Said Ewan.
‘Question two, what colour is the house?’ I go on to say.
‘I have already told you, Mum, Mary lives in a PINK house!’ His tone and the emphasis on the colour of the house screams stroppy, teenage ‘I think I know it all’ rather than a cute six-year-old.
I look at my son confused for a minute, I did not envisage that he would answer two questions in one, this is already annoying me. ‘I know, but the question is split up so you will have to write them separately, in full sentences,’ I reason with him. Before I had even got all of my words out he had scrawled the words HOUSE in big letters under the question. Oh, damn it, he has done it wrong already. I scramble for a solution quick, my brain still foggy from the week of negotiating with teenage hormones while trying to teach other people’s children.
‘Darling, you need to write in full sentences so it will be Mary lives in a house, just add it at the top.’ Thankfully he has left some space so we can add the additional words. He gives me an unhappy stare as if to mourn the loss of the minute he would lose watching TV because he has to add more words. As he starts to write, I beam with pride; his handwriting is getting much better.
Every parent wants the best for their child; so when his teacher complained about his handwriting, I was determined to get him to write more. He detests me when I make him write but he will thank me when he is older or needs tons of therapy.
‘Next question, it is a pink house, remember, full sentences Ewan.’ I remind him.
‘Alright, alright, I know how to do it!’ He slaps both hands on his head and lowers it in annoyance. At this point, Clara starts shouting ‘I want juice’ loud enough the whole town could hear it. ‘Mummy, mummy, mummy get juice’. She said flashing her icy blue eyes at me and smiling expectantly.
‘Ewan, are you alright to carry on?’ I ask as he is completing the second question.
‘Yes Mum, it is so easy’ he says in a boastful tone.
As I walk into the kitchen with the empty juice bottle, my husband looks up as he loads the dishwasher. ‘Is he doing it properly, have you checked?’ He enquires while I put far too much blackcurrant squash into her bottle compared to what my husband gives her, whoops.
‘yes, yes, we have established Mary lives in a pink house and hangs about with a frog called Fred’ I say in a nonchalant manner before I saunter into the living room, hand Clara her juice bottle and throw myself back down beside my son. I survey what he has done for a moment and realise he hasn’t listened to a thing I have said.
‘Ewan, what have I said about just putting down one word, you are supposed to write in full sentences.’ Exasperated I look at the sheet. ‘Instead of outside you need to write they have tea outside.’ I look at the picture to check that the answer is correct and Mary Mouse does indeed have tea with Fred outside.
As I put my hand through my hair to try and compose myself, my husband leans over us and looks at the homework.
‘You have got the question wrong,’ said as if he had asked to pass the salt.
‘what?’ I’m confused.
‘Did you read the question?’
‘Of course, I read the flipping question, Maisey has tea with Fred outside, it’s on the picture as well,’ I was going to have to lie down after this homework was done.
‘Where does Maisey USUALLY have tea? Have you even read it properly?’ He says to me as if diffusing a bomb. It was at that moment I realised skim reading was not a gift of mine. I had indeed got the answer wrong. What was happening, am I really that stupid?
‘But the picture…’ I try to salvage some form illogical argument that will save my bruised ego.
‘That was the point, it was there to trick them and teach them to read the whole thing,’ he says carefully not to say ‘I told you so.’
‘Oh for heaven’s sake! That’s evil.’ My anger starts to bubble quicker than a kettle in hell. My sigh of frustration resonates throughout the living room. What kind of passive aggressive person gives a bunch of six-year-olds a homework that deliberately tricks them into getting it wrong. I’m a grown adult with a degree and even I got it wrong, what hope is there for Ewan and the rest of his class?
‘You better sort it out because I’m ready to explode.’
I storm towards the kitchen full of fury. I’m thirty-eight years old, with an A Level in English and I cannot even answer a piece of homework designed for a six-year-old. I am officially useless. If you look in the dictionary at the word incompetent, it would have a picture of me.
In a desperate attempt to stop myself from punching something, I retreat to my favourite place at the time of a meltdown, my cleaning cupboard. Whenever anger strikes me, I have a desire to take control and clean my house or reorganise something; cleaning is my therapy. It helps me process things.
I grab my trusty Zoflora disinfectant and special cleaning sponge and set to work, moving all of my appliances off the counter. Spraying the disinfectant onto the worktop and frantically scrubbing out my frustration; why has this upset me so much? I feel like an epic failure; I’m supposed to be the adult and get it right not show my son what a fool of a mother he has. Why on earth does life throw these sort of situation my way? I’m already struggling to juggle being a mother, working and not going totally insane in the process without a piece of homework tipping me over the edge. At that moment, I inhale the citrus-scented air and think about just going back to bed, hiding there forever and giving up. As wonderful as that sounds, I know I cannot. I am the adult and I must at least try to act like one, or pretend to act like one.
My husband places my coffee cup by the kettle and looks at me while I furiously scrub.
‘Do you want a coffee darling?’ He slips his hands around my waist and gives me a gentle squeeze, he can sense my tension.
‘you are not still angry about that homework are you?’ He gives a slight chuckle as he releases me from his hug.
‘I’m bloody livid. What kind of a sociopath gives a six-year-old homework like that? Next, they will be getting him to analyse Shakespeare.’ I hiss with a venomous tone. ‘No bloody wonder kids are stressed out about school if they get nonsensical crap like that to do. The whole education system is a joke; they want robots who can read and write perfectly but can’t do anything else. Why does he even have so much homework, he is a kid for goodness sake.’ My annoyance at the homework was masking a deeper issue; it was Sunday and I was dreading going back to work.
‘As you keep telling Ewan, we all make mistakes and there is nothing wrong with that, it shows we are human.’ He said reassuringly. Why did he have to be right all the flipping time? I still cannot fathom how he was so cool and chilled out about things like this. Sensing my need for a distraction he spun me around and lifts me up into a bear hug that melts the anger away. Upon releasing his grip he grabs the cup of coffee off the side and places it into my empty hands, it’s warmth instantly snaps me out of the most that had descended upon me.
‘Plus, I won’t tell anyone if you don’t,’ smiles my husband as he picks up his cup of tea and makes his way to his usual spot at the computer.
Sometimes, I wondered how he copes with the sheer amount of meltdowns that occur within our household? Maybe he is doing some form of community service keeping me from unleashing the full force of my emotions upon an unsuspecting public. If he was a spy on a secret mission to contain the madness he certainly spent a lot of time playing computer games.
I vowed to learn from my mistakes; I would let my husband do the homework in future or resolve not to skim read anything in a rush again.