Via SMH, June 3, 2018
Someone once said that there’s a time and a place for everything. I don’t know who it was, but I used to assume it was a parent nursing a Lego injury. That was when my children were younger, and the tiny coloured bricks of fury were the toughest obstacles they could throw down before me. My twins are eight now and, god help me, I long for those simpler times.
These days, the time-and-place theory pops into my mind around wine o’clock, when I’m attempting relaxation or a facsimile thereof. I’ll have lived an entire day of my own life by then, keeping a roof over our heads and standing up for a minute every time my watch reminds me to. It’s not much of a life, but it’s mine.
I’ll also have lived most of my children’s lives right alongside them – feeding them, bathing them, refereeing them and so forth – and I’ll be settling down on the couch with a glass of red to watch other people hunt for their dream homes on the telly. That’s usually when the most fearsome word in our family’s lexicon will be screamed out by one of the twins: “Homework!”
Nothing shatters the pathetic halfhour of tranquillity I’ve managed to carve out of a day like that word. Bloody homework. “I don’t want to do homework,” they whine at me.
“Do you think I do?” I whine back.
“I’ve done my homework, 12 years of it. This is your problem!”
Then the tears – oh god, the tears – and the terrible realisation that it is, of course, my problem. And it shouldn’t be my problem – I’ve got problems of my own. There’s a time and a place for school work, and it’s school!
So we pull those scrappy books covered in banana and dried apple juice out of their bags, the books filled with photocopied exercises glued in upside down, and deceptively cute, childish letters in lead pencil. We play that game where we pretend we won’t eventually give up and just cheat so we can all go to bed, but then someone remembers an even worse surprise lurking below. A note. A note about an evening.
“Dear Parent,” it starts, then goes on about a meeting they think will be a great opportunity for me to be more involved with my children’s education.
I have no interest in becoming more involved in my father’s dialysis or in my dog’s vaccinations, either. I’m more than happy to defer to the experts on these matters and stay out of their way until they need a ride home. That’s where my responsibility kicks in.
A couple of weeks ago, the school had a session explaining the new methodology for teaching kids to read. Guys, I don’t need to know how you do it. Just do it, yeah?
Here’s the really annoying part – I found out recently that teachers hate it, too. Apparently, this pressure to be involved in my children’s education actually comes from other parents.
A teacher friend told me they have all the dreaded “evenings” because if they don’t, some sad losers with no lives complain about not being included. Good lord. Can you imagine what kind of in-laws these people are going to be?
I’m very involved in my children’s lives – I’m a single mother, I have to be. I teach them other stuff, like personal hygiene, ethics and what clothes to wear to look thinner. But I don’t know how to teach them long division – and frankly, it’s not my responsibility.
I send them to school to learn how to read and write and enough maths to figure out roughly what a 20 per cent discount on ASOS will actually mean to their credit card bill.
Let’s all just get on with our own little corner of raising these kids and take our evenings back for ourselves. House Hunters International is not going to watch itself.