Homework time in the Offutt household operates under Chaos Theory. Any slight change in conditions results in unexpected, even world-shattering consequences.
In nature, this may start by a butterfly distracting the eldest male in a scurry of squirrels. The eldest male may stumble and injure his leg, which may lead to the dominance of the beta male (a weaker, but more intelligent squirrel) who will become the forefather of a race of talking squirrels that will someday take over the planet.
Thoughts like this wake me up at night.
In the case of our children’s homework, the change of conditions could be anything from leftover pizza to something shiny.
For example: After a few minutes on her school’s math web page, my 10-year-old pointed at our laptop.
“Can I use this on the toilet?” she asked.
What? At her age, I wouldn’t have dreamed of using a computer on the toilet, probably because back then a computer was the size of a Dumpster and equally as functional in respects to doing homework.
“Uh, no,” I said.
“Well,” she huffed. “I have to do my math somehow.”
Times were easier when we simply used pencils to do our math on the toilet. Doesn’t she have paper in there? And what exactly is there to figure out? If she’s doing math on the toilet the answer’s either Number One or Number Two.
But the Offutt Homework Chaos Theory doesn’t end in the bathroom.
“Do you have any homework?” is usually the second question I ask the children when they get home from school. The first being, “Were you followed?” If a parent doesn’t keep their children rightfully paranoid they’re not doing their job right.
Our children’s stock answer to the homework question is usually a firm, “no,” followed a half hour later by, “Can you help me with my homework?”
There are three problems with me helping my seventh and fifth graders with their homework. The first being the fact they usually leave their planners at school. Planners. Pfft. When I was their age, the only planner I had was TV Guide.
These planners, however, have all their homework listed. The children eventually remember they have homework, but without the planner they just can’t remember what it is.
The second is, in order to successfully complete any assignment, they first have to read the directions. Asking a child to read the directions is akin to asking them to clean their room, unload the dishwasher, or clean up after the cat. If they ignore it, it goes away.
The last is they never ask for help with English, history or science, which are all subjects I know something about. They usually need help with math. My math knowledge begins and ends with what I learned on Sesame Street. This episode is brought to you by the number five and the letter Y. That counts as algebra, right?
All this equates in the Offutt Homework Chaos Theory. Every little variation in routine sets up a chain of events that ends with a trip to the liquor store.
-- Jason’s newest novel, “Bad Day for the Apocalypse,” is available at jasonoffutt.com