taking the passive out of passive-aggressive

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Since when did homework become a family event? My daughter came home with three assignments today, all of which involved great amounts of parental effort.

The first assignment didn't even make any g*d sense. She was given a list of words, which she then had to copy. All well and good, although she is far beyond copying words like "shoe," but whatever. But then, the directions go on to say, we parents are supposed to write letters on a piece of paper, cut them out, and use them like Scrabble tiles to rearrange them into the list of words. Why, god, why?

I normally go along with whatever silly scutwork they put in these worksheets, figuring there's some obscure pedagogical reason for all of it, but this one just exasperated me. "No!" I said. "We're not doin' it. I'm writing a note. What kind of busywork is this? Three hours to cut out letters? Who does that help?"

Thinking I'd gotten through the worst of it, I began preparing dinner while carrying the baby n my hip and singing "Baby Beluga." Then I hear, "Mumma, I need help with this one too."

Now this worksheet said that three people in the family needed to get together and pretend to be Tim, Jim, and Kim. (Kim, of course, being the token Asian in the accompanying line drawing.) We had to make NAMETAGS, I kid you not, and ACT OUT EVERY PERMUTATION OF A THREE-PERSON FOOTRACE.

I don't even know where to begin. A footrace at six o' clock at night? In the middle of winter? With a baby on my hip? Not just one footrace but, let's see, three to the third would be NINE footraces? Not to mention the making of nametags and the transcription of race results onto the little politically correct worksheet? And what if we were a single parent household, would we have to enlist the baby or the cat as our third runner?

Uh-uh. My husband sat down with her and taught her to do it the right way, on paper, by process of elimination. For god's sake if the kid is ever going to ace her LSAT's, she'd better not be acting out all the problems in the Games section. Can you see her in the aisles of the testing center? "Okay, you be Juan. Now, you're Tyrone. I'm Betty.... here are three apple slices and one orange..."

OK, surely it's over now, I think to myself, until my husband comes in with another piece of paper, sighing. "We now have to mark down all the fruits and vegetables Amanda eats," he says, "for a week. And she's supposed to eat five a day." Here he pauses. "I can't even THINK of five vegetables, can you?"

I was just putting the finishing touches on Amanda's plate, which until that moment, I thought looked pretty damn good. A chicken tender, lettuce with salad dressing, and pasta pesto. Suddenly, I looked at it and realized how remiss I'd been as a parent, how remiss I have always been. "Does basil count?" I asked. "It's green, it grows in the ground!"

In desperation I threw two baby carrots on the plate and a stalk of celery. "Amanda, did you eat ANY OTHER fruits or vegetables today?" I asked, trying to make three into five.

"Um, there was tomato sauce on my pizza!" she said brightly. "And I had some pineapple!" Whew! I was out of the woods.

Until tomorrow, anyway.


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