You feel threatened.
You figure even though bin Laden is dead and no matter how good Obama is at aiming those predator drones, there’s still plenty of stuff making you lose sleep at night: Iran, North Korea, deep space asteroids that could be headed for Earth, rising tensions in the Gulf, the Kardashians and the Republican Party just to name a few. You worry about global warming. You’re also terrified that those people over at Microsoft will go through with their threat to roll-out a new version of Windows soon. Heck, you’ve just figured out how the current version operates and it works just fine as far as you’re concerned — “Thank you very much”- and you don’t need any more trouble in your life. You still have nightmares about when they came out with that Vista stuff a few years back.
There are lot of issues — a lot of menaces — that could shake up your world — and at any second too.
Honesty compels you to admit however, your biggest menace is the kids have just gone back to school and you are threatened by the notion that pretty soon you will have to face the prospect of helping them with their homework.
“Don’t get me wrong,” you confided in Maxine, the neighbor woman. “I believe in education but it seems like they just got out of school for the summer.
The reality is you haven’t recovered yet from last school year.
You’re pretty smart. At least “…I think I am”, you told Maxine just yesterday. You read the newspaper. You watch the nightly news. You keep up. Last month, you think it was, you even watched that NOVA program on the PBS Channel one Wednesday night. You know a few things. At least you thought you did.
Truth is you’re stupefied. Things are sure different from when you were in school. In those days schools themselves came in only two sizes, like detergent: small and big, elementary school and high school – according to the size of the kid. There was none of this middle school business. These days, kids actually have menu choices in the lunch room. You had no such thing. You ate mystery meat or whatever that was the cafeteria lady put on your plate.
When it comes to the curriculum, you don’t know what the hell they are teaching those kids down at that school these days, “…which is exactly the problem,” you told Maxine. “I have no clue.” They never taught any of that stuff when you were in school. You don’t know fractals from fractions from fracking, Base 2 from Base 10, Mandarin oranges from Chinese Mandarin, new math from apparently even newer math from the stuff they taught you, which basically amounted to how to make exact change so as not to piss-off the girl working at the McDonald’s drive-thru.
On top of all that, the teachers and administrators these days are preoccupied with test scores. U.S. kids are way behind the rest of the world when it comes to math and science. The principal at the school told you as much at a parent-teacher conference last year. Twenty-eighth in the world, you think it is that U.S. kids rank in math and science. “Our kids are far behind the kids in Sweden,” he said. You told Maxine that you’re sure that the principal said this as a way of trying to hang this whole sub-par test score thing on you, since you are the one who’s been helping your kids with their homework. The problem, in your mind is not that your kids are not smarter than the kids in Sweden but that they are smarter than you!
Normally, you wouldn’t even insist on helping them with their homework, but you know for a fact that a bunch of the other parents down at the school help their children. Some of these parents helicopter and hover over their kids, providing as much help and cover and protection as if the kids were soldiers storming the beaches at Normandy instead of the middle school Halls of Ivy.
You will not have your three be at any disadvantage. So you help.
Of course, one of the problems in helping them is that your kids, God bless their hearts, have inherited your procrastination gene. All three of them wait until the last damn minute to do anything. ANYTHING!
Last year, for a project in history, your middle child — at the last minute — had to build a scale model of the ancient Roman Coliseum. He decided to build it out of popsickle sticks. Popsickle sticks! And this would have been perfectly fine except that every other kid in the seventh grade apparently must have decided to do the same thing and Hobby Lobby ran out of popsickle sticks. Instead, you ended up having to buy two gross of orange popsickles from Kroger. In the end, Johnathan only got a C on the thing, you managed to get epoxy in your hair and the rest of the family ate stick-less popsickles for months. Months!
The thing is, they are basically good kids. You’ve never gotten a call from the police about them; they’ve never been held for questioning by the District Attorney; and they’ve never set fire to anything… at least nothing real important. So what can you do but help them when they need it? But you swear to God, the next time the little one volunteers you at the last minute to do anything down at that school, you’re gonna… Well, you’re just gonna…
Helping with homework and school projects are just things that a good parent does. And if your three kids sarcastically call you “the help” behind your back, well that’s fine with you, as long as they do well in school. (Of course, lately, after two oldest got less than stellar grades on our project on which you “helped”, they have taken to sarcastically referring to you as “Some help she is.”)
Of course, you’ll make it through the school year. “We all will make it,” you tell yourself… and Maxine. Maybe Obama can use the drones to stop any deep space asteroids that could be headed for the planet. You’ll even figure out that new version Window if they still decide to release it and no one has sense enough to file a court injunction to stop them in the meantime. Hell, you — or somebody — might even figure out the Republican Party. And you’ll even find a way of outsmarting those Swedish kids too. The only one of them that you really have to worry about is Heidi, the same one who works the drive thru down at the McDonald’s and who’s forever getting your order wrong.
Suddenly, you’re feeling better about this whole damn thing.
Of course, the little one has just come through the door, home from school already and announced that the third grade has started studying fractions and she needs you to explain to her what’s bigger, 3/16ths or 7/32nds? She also tells you that you have to make three dozen chocolate chip cupcakes for the third grade class’ Bake Sale tomorrow afternoon.
Suddenly, you’re concerned again. And you have every right to be. Every right.
©Copyright 2012 Will Cantrell