A few weeks ago, I had a great conversation with Christopher Garlington of the Dave & Chris show out of Chicago. Check out his very funny blog, deathbykids, about his life as a mostly stay-at-home dad. Here’s what he posted about homework before I went on his radio show.
Down with Homework
by Christopher “G” Garlington
So it’s 10:30 at night and I’m driving to Kinkos to print out my daughter’s social studies paper because our printer is, mysteriously, out of ink again. Like it’s got a leak. I get to Kinkos and they’re closed. So I have to call and find the 24 hour Kinkos where all the employees are failed dot com millionaires and screenwriters and perform their duties with the grim disaffection and terminal hatred you’d expect from vassal slaves and I’m thinking–this isn’t life: it’s survival.
When the hell is my daughter going to lie on her bed and daydream? When’s she going to read something that’s not assigned to her? When’s she going to hang out on the stoop with her friends and shoot the $%!^? When am I?
Anyone with a new teen knows that this is the point in a child’s development psychologists call the FU phase
because pretty much that’s the attitude a teen has and, for some of us, the words coming out of their mouths. Kids are beginning that slow burn into adulthood (for girls, that’s 17; for guys, 37–maybe) and the key manifestation is the explosion of intellectual disdain for their poor retarded parents.
Sarah, for instance, proved this point last night when, at 9:45, still doing homework, she emailed a paper to me (she had to, I was on THE OTHER SIDE OF THE TABLE) and in proofing it I noticed she’d used the word WARE for wear. I called her on it and she made a face I’ll never forget, a face that spoke volumes about the pain and frustration of bearing custody for a vegetable like myself. It was a cross between a resolute “duh” and “it’ll be ok honey when they take you back in the home” and she rolled her eyes and said “Dad, you’re a retard.”
She adamantly argued that there is no such word as “wear” and that “ware” was correct.
Dad: “Use it in a sentence.”
Sarah: “I’d like to ware my new dress but my dad is a retard.”
Dad: “That’s w-e-a-r.”
Sarah: “Re. Tar. Dead.”
My daughter is brilliant. She goes to Lincoln Park High School. It’s been in NEWSWEEK. She scored in the 97th percentile on her ISATs. She’s in double honors. For Christ’s sake, our bumper sticker, “My child is measurably more intelligent that yours and, thus, attends LPHS. Booyah!” is in latin!
I blame homework. There’s just too much of it. She has no time to read and when she does, it’s Japanese Manga like “Boys Over Flowers” which she adores that I finally looked at and, after burning them all, told her she can’t read them because they are, apparently, gay porn. When’s she going to read Nancy Drew And the Case of the Past Participle, or Elmore Leonard’s classic western, Guns of the Wild Dipthong? How is she supposed to actually learn anything worth learning if all she’s doing is hitting the points required to merely exceed the standard standardized learning standard?
I realized that my family life is manic. We carom through our day from 6 am till we crash at 11:30. We don’t eat together, we don’t retire to the parlor for tea and talk. We don’t sit on the porch and occasionally say “Yup.” We’re in a runaway car.
The other night I was on the couch tweaking a website and I heard the dog barking. I knew my daughter was doing homework on the back porch (which, to be honest, probably is a parlor) so I sent her an instant message: let the dog out. The dog is 4 FEET from her crossing his legs at the back door and whining. She IMs her cousin who is in the basement to let the dog out then the cousin IMS ME TO TELL ME THE DOG NEEDS TO GO OUT. I looked down at the screen and thought–I actually thought this–my son needs a laptop so I can IM him to let the dog out!
All of which would be instantly better without homework. If the kids came home and could just jet out and play (or in my daughter’s case, preen), and If I didn’t have to task-master biology experiments or rush to the library to check out books on Greek Mythology while they finished their algebra, we could all sit around the dinner table to a home cooked meal and talk about real stuff (in my daughter’s case, preening) and just be together.