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I Feel No Guilt

As a parent, there are certain conversations we strive to avoid. Every parent has their boundaries, their invisible line drawn in the proverbial sand box.

There are few topics that I try to avoid like the plague. Sex is not one of them. In fact, I may have over stepped my children's boundaries of comfort one time too many so that now when anything sex-related is brought up, my children stick their fingers in their ears and run to their bedrooms screaming about not wanting to know.

I think it was the diagram of an angry vagina with teeth I drew for them to explain the process of childbirth that did it, but really, who can be sure?

I have always been fairly open and honest with my kids about anything they ask about. I figure it's my job as their parent to screw them up more than any kid on a playground could.

But there has always been one topic of conversation I have avoided and try to fob off to the other parental unit as often as possible.


It's not the discussion of homework that is a problem, or the nagging it often takes to have them tear themselves away from video games or the trampoline to get them to do it. I am an expert at threatening to with hold toilet paper and food until they finish their after school assignments.

My fear and dread generally occurs when they need help with their homework. One too many dioramas and essay questions on what mommy does for a living has tended to make my heart rate pick up, beads of sweat fall between my breasts and cause my left eye to twitch.

If homework was strictly for the children it was assigned to, I'd have no problem discussing assignments with them. But since it often turns into a parental assignment where I sit beside my children so they can bear witness to just how faulty my basic comprehension skills really are, I'm really rather loath to demonstrate to my kids how much smarter than me they are. That's just a recipe for trouble. I'm barely hanging on to the parental reigns of control as it is. Every inch they gain on me, the harder it is for me to tug these ponies into compliance.

If I knew that my days of homework weren't finished when I finally graduated from my years of schooling, I may never have procreated. Worried about teenage pregnancies? Invite a couple of parents dealing with a child's science project experiment to the school to give the horny little buggers a real education in what it will mean if you get knocked up in the back seat of daddy's car. That homework assignment you've been bitching about to all your friends and are losing sleep over? Guess what kiddos? You think it's tough now? Wait another ten years when you have to do it all over again with your kids looking on, mocking you while struggling to remember subject matter that is less than fresh.

It's a sure fire way to guarantee the sex stops and teen pregnancy rates plummet.

If I hated homework when I was in school, I hate it even more now that it is my kid's assignments being brought home. My hatred only gets worse with every grade they enter. As the assignments become more rigorous and scholastic my own feelings of ineptitude rise accordingly. It's an evil ying and yang.

A couple of days ago, I had to drive into town to pick Frac up from a friend's house. As he settled into the back seat and pulled the seat belt over his shoulder, I casually asked if he remembered everything, such as his book bag and lunch kit.

"Yep," Frac muttered as he zipped open his backpack and pulled out a big binder.

"Whatcha doing?" I asked because I a.) have rocks for brains and b.) try to pretend to show interest in what is going on in his life.

"I have a couple of questions of homework to do. Figure I'll do them now so I can play when I get home."

Nodding my head, I made a wondered where that industrious work ethic hides whenever his bedroom needs cleaning or the dishes need to be done, but I wisely kept silent. No sense poking the bear.

"I'm having some problems with this assignment, Mom."

"That's nice honey," I state as I reach over to turn the volume to the radio up. Maybe if the music is so loud he won't ask for help.

"It's algebra." He is now burning holes into the back of my head, willing for me to offer up some parental encouragement and offers of help.


Keep dreaming bucko. I'm onto you. This is why God invented calculators and teachers. I refuse to make eye contact through the rear view mirror and I tighten my grip on the steering wheel.

"I could really use a little help," Frac hints not so subtly. "I just can't seem to understand what it is I'm doing."

Hmm. That sentence neatly sums up my parental motto. I smile to myself.

Frac, being no dummy, can sense I am uncomfortable. It's like he can smell the fear. Like a hyena smells a the blood on a wounded antelope, he totally hones in for the kill.

"Will you help me with my math when we get home?" I could see the evil innocent look on his face. Damn him for being cute. I'm sure it would be easier to say no to your kids if they were ugly.

Sighing heavily, I fortify myself and simply announce, "No."

"No?" Frac repeats with disbelief. "But you're my MOM. You are supposed to help me with my homework."

"Ask your father."

"He's AT WORK," he explains exasperatedly.

"Sucks for you."

"Moooom!" It's as though he figures if he draws out the syllables it's a magical spell to change my mind and guilt me into submission. Wrong sucker! I've lived through the terrible twos. I'm impervious to the whine you're pouring.

Bravely, I make eye contact with him through the mirror as I ask him, "Do you have a teacher?"

"Ya. I've got lots of them."

"Good. Go ask one of them. That's what they are paid to do. Teach you. Unlike me, who's only responsibility is chauffering you back and forth, occasionally tossing dry cereal at your feet and making sure you stay out of prison." Guilt creeps up and sits on my shoulder, yanking at my ear lobes but I refuse to pay any attention to it.

"It's just a few questions. I just need you to look at the text book for a second and explain the concept to me again."

"No." What I don't tell him is likely I won't understand the concept. I never understood algebra while I was forced to take it. Fifteen years of an algebra free life was not likely to help my grasp at all.

"I don't want you to actually DO the questions for me," he explained. Because, why yes, I have done their homework for them before. Proof my children are smarter than me.

"I said NO." By now I'm actually shaking. Dear Lord, make the homework talk cease and desist. Doesn't the kid want to know what a blow job is? I could totally handle that conversation.

"Fine," he snaps as he slams his binder shut and starts shoving it back into his backpack.

"Good to know we've come to an understanding," I quip just before I start singing along to the radio.

"Uh huh. Just so you know, when I'm taking your order at McDonalds and asking if you want fries with that, it will be all your fault. If I end up working at a fast food joint because you wouldn't help me with my homework you are going to feel awfully bad about it."

I look into the mirror and see my son's annoyed blue eyes staring back at me.

"Just make sure you put extra ice in my drink. You know how much I like that." And then I smile my most loving maternal smile to him.

Frac sighs loudly and shakes his head as he breaks eye contact and looks out the window.

"I really need to work on the guilt thing. It doesn't seem to work for me the way it works for you."

With that I burst out laughing.

"Don't worry Frac. You'll have lots of time to hone that skill when you are all grown up and flipping burgers."

And this is how I keep winning all those mother of the year awards. Without having to do any damn homework.

« Feel Sorry For Me | Main | A Very Special Story »

Reader Comments (48)

Did you and I attend the same parenting school?
Utter genius of course!

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterZoe Right

My excuse for the homework, is "I was absent that day, I didn't get to learn it, so I can't help you" I so needed to hear this today.... Thanks!

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

Damn. and I'm having a hard time not passing on crappy handwriting to my Kindergartener as I coach her through printing. Thanks for the hope. I'll be setting up the Algebra tutor fund this afternoon.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Zoe Right. Zoe Right said: Don't quote me but I think she may be a genius. RT @redneckmommy New Post at my place. http://bit.ly/4fKdff [...]

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTweets that mention I Feel No

Ok, now you've got me reaching for my bottle of happy mommy pills...ALGEBRA??? It was just last week I was on the ledge over the 5th grade decimal place value BS (WTF ever happened to just rounding up & down?) they're teaching these days and I am quite sure my son DID in fact go back and tell his teacher that his Mom said "that is not even REAL math and you would never ever need to use that in real life as long as there are calculators & computers!". Boy I can't wait till the parent teacher conference next month! Maybe when the teacher gets to the math part I can distract *him* with "So, um, when will ya'll be beginning sex ed?".

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterO'Neal

Algebra is very important. I use it for blogging when I calculate my coefficient of readers and use quadratic equations to figure out how much funny to put in each post.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAvitable

bwhahahahahahahaha! Ok I don't comment much this might be the 2nd time or so. But I love reading your blog and I am so not excited about going through algebra again. (It took me 3 tries when I did it on my own) Who knew you could tell the little buggers no when they ask for help. I'll keep that one in mind.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTanna

Just be sure he knows how to make change for a twenty.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJay

You are my hero! I just explain that once you get a diploma you are no longer required to do homework and I have had mine long since.

Oh and the terrible twos comment...I will be infringing your copywrite at the nearest available opportunity....That was priceless....

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCindy King

AMEN SISTER!!! I didn't sign up for another 12 years of homework when The Wife and I were, well...you know. ;-)

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkwades

I explained, very slowly and clearly, that I have DONE Grade 3 once, and I am not required to do it again. Especially not in French. Man, I love being an immigrant in Quebec.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMrs F with 4

How can a kid be allowed to leave school to go home and do homework they do not know how to do? That is so much pressure. I am so glad my kids are grown and have to deal with their own kids' homework problems. You handled this situation with honest answers and consistency.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTechnobabe

It was a rude awakening for me last year when I discovered that my stepdaughter's 4th grade math homework was over my head. I am not smarter than a 5th grader. I am barely on the level with a third grader!!!

My daughter is only 2, but I dread the day I have these assignments.
The english portion may not be so bad, but coming to mommy for math help is a BIG mistake..
I really loved this entry.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLindsayDianne

I rocked in Alegbra in 8th grade a few ... um years ago. Show us the problems. Maybe we can help.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGrandeMocha

Good, then I don't have to feel guilty about the fact that I told my teenager that next semester, when mommy has to take remedial math (basic algebra) in college, his ass is doing my homework if he wants to eat. He laughed and told me algebra was actually kind of interesting (though not enough for him to actually do homework or stay awake in class, apparently)... my response? Dude... math is NUMBERS. There are NO letters in math. Ever. Not in the real world.
So, he either starts cracking the algebra books for me, (I'm screwed for finals) or he loses a few pounds. Whatever.
When it comes to that shit, he already knows he's smarter than me. I dreaded the day he learned math, cause it was only a matter of time til he figured out how old mommy was when she had him :)

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

They don't even "do" long division the same way anymore. I stopped trying to help with maths. I was fed up hearing I(who ME?) was doing it wrong.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMrsW

I just flat-out told my kids I suck at math and failed Algebra horribly. With dishonor even. I can help all they want with English based homework, but math and science, not so much.

Fortunately all my kids excelled at the necessary math classes and my daughter went onto the really bizarre and useless stuff like trigonometry and advanced calculus.

All my kids are out of school. Will grand-kids ask Grammi for math help? If so I'm screwed.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie

Hahaha, your son is funny too.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJ from Ireland

I mean like you!!

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJ from Ireland

Believe it or not, they have actually changed first grade subtraction! My daughter looked at me like I was a complete loon for not doing it "the teacher way". They actually sent home worksheets explaining their new method of completing 7-5=2.

I'm giving up now and hiring a tutor...

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

That's just mean... MEAN! And I don't see how the quaadratic equation would help you with your funny... Maybe some synthetic division of polynomials...

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBubbleGirl

Your son needs his own blog.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAunt Becky

too funny. been there and done that!

you handled this pretty good. just keep telling them it is the teachers job to teach.

NEVER,NEVER,NEVER let them know they are smarter than you.

hide your old report cards until they are 30.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commentertony

Algebra-schmalgebra! I hate it and start looking for the nearest exit when ever it is brought up! I explained to my high school freshmen that I was required to take college algebra and that I did manage to pass. When I did, however "I vomitted every stinking algebra fact I had ever learned on to the paper and left it all there, never ever to be remembered or needed again." Good thing she has a daddy that likes that crap!

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKathy K.

Algebra...you have to be kidding me!

I tell my oldest that I've already retired and don't have to do those things anymore.

Unfortunately, that line doesn't work for my husband. Sigh.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmo

I'd just tell them Algebra didn't exist when I was a kid. Damn, modern advances in technology.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRandom

See, I don't have to worry about this. Why, you ask? (Of course you ask. Don't be silly)
Because one of my dirt faced okie kids is a whiz and does everything on his own.
And the other one fights me tooth and nail to do ANY homework at all.
Therefore, I never have to show how dumb I am.
Take that, Pythagorean.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer McKenzie

See, when I signed up to inadvertently have the kids I love so much, I'm pretty sure "algebra" wasn't in the fine print. Neither was "potty training" or explaining a "god" I don't quite agree with. And yet, here I am. Poor kids.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterUndomestic Diva

Yeah I've started running for cover when the homework comes out and my eldest is only in Grade 2. They can damn well walk across the road and see their grandmother for help with that stuff. I'll take a sex talk any day.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMadWoman

LMAO girl you are too funny!

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

Very timely. My son came home asking for help on Geometry today. The lowest grade I ever got was in geometry. Even the word GEOMETRY makes me break out in hives. I'm good at the excuses though ... I informed him the teachers now teach geometry much differently than they used to. I said PERHAPS it would be best for him to call a friend in his class and see if his friend understood. Because, you know, I wouldn't want to confuse him ....

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTwenty Four At Heart

first of all, love your blog!!
i have had terrible math anxiety since my father "taught" me long division. my son is six, and I had trouble with his kindergarten homework, and obviously i can read and write, (syntax is iffy) but dittos drive me crazy! and don't get me started on cutting and pasting. I am a little wound up just reading the word algebra right now, is it five o clock yet?

seriously though, online there is homework help. and tutors. take yourself out of it now, while you still can. call the kids teacher. my mom is/was a teacher, and she never helped us like other parents and now I have a master's in social work, and know a thing about boundaries or two. you do not have to make yourself responsible for their education in this direct way, if you choose.

i have tried to enjoy the academic gains my son has made. and focus on the learning process, the painful, painful, lessons they learn... and we learn. just a little retrospective from a mom who's gonna try and not be there!
awesome post!!

September 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterheather

I actually had to count the little blocks one time instead of figuring out how many made tens and so on. It was easier on the brain.

I used to have a cartoon on my fridge - goodness I can't remember the name of the strip but the kid is staring at his homework and the bubble says "This will come in handy when I get the job at the verb conjegation plant."

September 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKristin

Laughing over here.

Of course, my kids are still in the lower grades in elementary, so this is still funny. In a few years, I hope I can remember this.

My mom used to ask me why I expected her to have paid attention to a math lecture, when it was obvious that she wasn't there and I hadn't. Then she'd say, think of that tomorrow, as you pass notes in class. Brat had a point.

September 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterIssa

I love that bit about teachers: "That’s what they are paid to do."

September 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDenguy

I don't get the new math AT ALL. I hope that my children will be naturally gifted in math because I suck so hard at it.

September 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

Its funny, I went to grade school at a Catholic School, somewhere between "In the beginning" and the Spanish Inquisition, also known as the "good old days."

Math and science wasn't taught there. Nope. Well, except for the numbers of people killed on the racks, I mean, Catholics dont know chit about math, but they are great statisticians, I mean, how else do they tell the Pope, the "Big Guy" how many heathens they killed in the sake of God unless they could count, and what the mean and standard deviation of this years numbers are compared to last years etc.

But I digress, as I was saying, math wasnt taught that much. Fast forward some 40 years to where I am at now. An engineer, differential equations have nothing on me, there isnt a cosecant that can hide from me, but when it comes to simple math stuff, yep, there they are, my ten little fingers, counting on them like the math whore they are. My wife sees me doing finger math and then asks do i do that at work. YEP! I say, except when in a crowd, I work in base five, with one hand in my pocket.

September 16, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlarrylily

I don't even try, my kids do some newfangled gypsy math that makes little sense to me. The school understands the general level of dimwit among the parent population, so they actually give us the answers to the homework ahead of time, which is great. I get to correct their work, and when/if they ask me WHY something is wrong, I can smile knowingly and say "Didn't you learn that in school?"

Poor bastards.

September 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJacquie

Today my seventh grader took the 3D model of an animal cell we've spent the last five nights working on. It wasn an intricate process involving papier mache, modeling clay, tears (mine), wires, and perhaps an outstanding system of gears and levers. I was never so happy to see that thing leave my house. I still have shakes from the great Make A Model of the Lincoln Memorial assignment of 2006 (which I've saved on the top shelves in the basement for when my oldest is assigned the same project in about five years...)

That cracked me up. My favorite is "It’s as though he figures if he draws out the syllables it’s a magical spell to change my mind and guilt me into submission." - my daughter adds an "uh" to the end of every word to do the same thing to me. Instead of "no" its "no-uh" and so on....

September 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMitzi

Really, dude, we HAVE to start a commune. My kids beg me to STOP doing their homework...algebra in particular.

Seriously, we do algebraic equations over summer break. FOR FUN.

You can make all the money, I'll handle the education. Match made in heaven.

September 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMr Lady

Okay, I've got one for ya. (Hee hee.) I was on vacation last week or so, when I sat down with a friend's 15 yr old daughter to help her with her math homework. My friend looked on in disbelief, but it was one of the best times of my vacation! 5 hours later, we solved it! I am completely utterly-sober and definite that I enjoyed every last moment of it. And I hated and feared math in school, as I never understood it the way my teachers tried to teach. Do not underestimate yourself... you might have fun with it. ;-)

September 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWackyMummy

This is too funny! My son told me I was the dumbest mom ever that all the other moms helped their kids do their algebra. I told him I couldn't remember that far back. He said I could remember and I was lying, I said ok tell me things you did when you were 1 year old. He couldn't remember so, I said, see you cant remember stuff from that long ago. I dont't know why they waste our kids time learning stuff they will surely never use.

September 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterShannonJ

Hilarious post, your son is too funny...like his mother.

September 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThe Urban Cowboy

Wow, great post. I was lost by the time kiddo got to 5th grade. He is 12 days into high school now and I am counting the days until it's over. Love your blog.

September 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNancy

Can't wait until Frac has a standup routine at The Comedy Store now he has another career option besides the fast food. I was lucky my oldest son is a math whiz he helped anyone and everyone with their homework which was a huge ego boos t for him and a HUGE relief for his math challenged mother

September 17, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterhabanerogal

ahahaha, ♥ your story, seems your frac is very similar raff-yes I have riff 'n raff lol. I must say that in the past having to explain a blowjob and lately douching were way easier than some of the school related questions/topics, good on u for sticking to the idea of 'that's what the teachers are paid to do'

September 19, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterredneck gramma

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