Helping children with their homework is part of a parent’s job. It’s like teaching the arts of cooking, driving and insulting someone so subtly they won’t realize what happened until they’re sitting at home. Yeah, my kid totally burned them.
The trouble is people never think of homework while they’re making the child. No one in the heat of passion has ever paused, looked off through sweaty bangs and thought, “Oh, no. Someday I’m going to need to know the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs. We should use protection.”
Things are easy when the children are small. Can I spend hours playing with Legos, eating pizza rolls and watching Scooby-Doo? You bet. Frankly, I’d like to be doing that right now. It wasn’t until my children reached school age and I was expected to help them with their homework that, for the most part, I realized I was seriously under prepared.
“Hey, Dad. Whose assassination signaled the beginning of World War I?”
That’s easy, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. Maybe I’m not so unprepared after all.
“And what was the first battle in which the Triple Entente faced the Central Powers and on what date?”
Parents have their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to school subjects. Unfortunately for our children, the older they get the more weaknesses I seem to have.
“Hey, Dad, what makes up the nucleus of an atom? A neutron, a proton or an electron?”
“Uh, a Voltron.”
“But that’s not a subatomic particle, it’s a bad 1980s cartoon.”
“We learned about those in life skills class. The tomato is actually a fruit and is pronounced toe-may-toe.”
I find my mind wanders at times like these, especially when a real-world issue appears in a sixth grade math book.
My daughter's homework contained a problem that asked how many hours it would take Meyghann to drive 415 miles to Omaha if she drove a constant 55 mph. My only thought was how hard is it to spell Megan?
My heart went out to this make-believe person trying to determine her ETA to Nebraska while she’s got the name “Meyghann” to worry about. What are the two Ns for anyway? One N didn’t sound N enough for these make-believe math book parents?
Dear Lord, what now?
“Can I help you with supper?”
Oh, yeah. My time to shine.
“It’s ‘may’ I help you with supper and the answer is yes.”
The child handed me a recipe.
“Great. It’s for science class. We’ll need to prepare everything using the metric system. Do your measuring cups come in milliliters?”
I don’t think I have enough beer in the house for this.
“No, they don’t. They come in ounces, just like the cooking gods intended.”
That didn’t matter. The child was already tinkering with the stove.
“I don’t seem to be able to get Celsius on this thing.”
– Jason’s newest novel, “Bad Day for a Road Trip,” is available at jasonoffutt.com.