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.