Parenting magazines are full of advice about how and when kids should do their homework. Every kid should have his own desk, a quiet place in his bedroom perhaps, where he can sit down without any distractions. This advice sounds lovely, of course, but it's not realistic unless you live in a big house with lots of separate rooms. The living/kitchen area of our house is one room and that's pretty much the whole downstairs of the house. My kids do their homework sitting on the floor or on the couch, usually several feet away from siblings making music or eating food or talking about random stuff. And I'm there, too, doing my work while listening to their conversations.
With-a-Why: Ugh. This is the worst kind of homework.
Me: How bad can it be?
With-a-Why: I'm supposed to write about my feelings.
Boy in Black: (laughing) Oh, that sucks.
With-a-Why: MY FEELINGS.
Shaggy Hair Boy: I hate that crap.
Me: Let me see the sheet.
Boy in Black: Is this for English? Just make up some bullshit.
Boy in Black: (giving me a crooked grin.) English teachers like that.
Me: (reading aloud) "Describe a time when you felt uncomfortable."
With-a-Why: I'm never uncomfortable.
Me: What? You are like, the shyest kid in the universe.
Shaggy Hair Boy: But he's comfortable with that.
Boy in Black: (reading aloud) "How did you get through the situation? Give details about your FEELINGS."
Shaggy Hair Boy: Oh, god. (He turns back to the piano and begins playing again.)
Me: How about that time I tried to get you to take swimming lessons? And you were too shy?
With-a-Why: I built a sand castle.
Me: You could write about that.
With-a-Why: I didn't feel anything.
Me: You guys! Stop playing for a minute and help out. What do you do to get through uncomfortable experiences?
Shaggy Hair Boy: That's ridiculous. (Begins improvising on the piano.)
Boy in Black: You don't have to do anything.
Boy in Black: You can't stop time.
Boy in Black: You get through stuff whether you want to or not.
With-a-Why: I just sat there. And then it was over.
Me: Okay, pick another experience.
Boy in Black: (snickering) How about the time you went on Mom's blog and saw a naked picture of her?
Shaggy Hair: He didn't get through that.
Boy in Black: He was scarred for life.
Me: You. Are. Not. Helping.
Shaggy Hair: I felt slow today. Everything felt slow.
Me: You have a cold. That makes everything slow motion.
Boy in Black: We are out of milk. Again.
Me: Can you think of a time when YOU felt uncomfortable?
Boy in Black: Stuff doesn't make me uncomfortable. Because I don't care.
Shaggy Hair: How about that time you got roped into going to the prom?
Me: Hah! He's got you.
Boy in Black: What was I feeling? Like, I want to get the fuck out of here.
Boy in Black: Like ... I'd rather be playing Ultimate.
Shaggy Hair: Even my layouts were in slow motion.
Me: How about your first piano competition?
Shaggy Hair: Write about the time you had this stupid English assignment.
Shaggy Hair: And it made you uncomfortable.
Me: I mean, you had to talk to the judges and say the name of the pieces you were playing.
With-a-Why: (scribbling) And I was supposed to bow.
Me: You can write about the music -- you know lots about music.
With-a-Why: I can't write anything too complicated. The teacher won't get it.
Boy in Black: Just put in tons of shit about your feelings.
Shaggy Hair: Do you think she'll know what allegro means?
Me: You were okay once you started playing. You were probably the best musician in the room.
With-a-Why: Of the kids. But that judge might have been pretty nasty on the piano.
Boy in Black: We don't have any milk.
With-a-Why: How's this?
Me: I just bought some yesterday.
Boy in Black: Three gallons is never enough. You can't just buy three gallons.
Me: You just need one last line.
With-a-Why: Where did my pen go?
Me: Boy in Black, you go to the store next time.
With-a-Why: (reading aloud) "My love of music got me through the experience."