That Nagging Sensation: Homework and the Solo Mom
Enduring the daily torture of homework
Ack! Who is that haggard, red-eyed, exhausted hag in the mirror! How did that line get engraved between her eyebrows? Why is her voice so raspy and harsh? Just this morning she was calm and smiling and actually rather sweet as she served breakfast to her perfect children.
What has come over this poor woman? Could it be . . . the dread homework, a treacherous ghoul who haunts her weeknights?
OK. That’s enough. I think I’ve exhausted that metaphor.
“Metaphor. Yes, honey, it’s something you have to learn. Because the teacher is going to quiz you on it. Yes, you will use it in real life. No, I’m not being old fashioned and dinosaurs did not roam the earth when I learned about metaphors. There was no Google. Or Wikipedia. We had to trudge five miles in the snow to find an encyclopedia. So we really learned stuff.”
Their eyes are glazing over. They want to listen to you but YouTube is beckoning. And this is where, in your head, you turn to your imaginary dapper 1960s partner, who is sitting in an armchair, smoking a pipe in his nice sweater, and you say:
“I tried, dear. You talk to them while I go make a cake.”
And then Mr. Wonderful winks at you, casts a gleaming eye at his offspring, and says:
“Your mother is right. Let’s not test her patience. Come over here and show me that geometry homework. We’ll do it together!”
Careful. That daydreaming about the perfect partner is an early symptom of Nagitis Prepostera, which becomes so inflamed by solo parent anxiety and sense of inadequacy that it often overburdens the sensible parental cortex.
Nagging is such a hard thing to beat as a Solo Mom. There’s no one but you to tell your kids that you might be right, that they are going to get bad grades that could have been avoided, or that deadlines are actually deadlines.
Instead you find yourself enmeshed in your child’s own anxiety, and pretty soon you are feeding off each other. You know better! You do! And yet . . . you just can’t help it. They bring it out in you!
You have to say those things. Because you are the only parent. And somehow you feel that if you don’t say them, someone will tell you later that you have neglected your duties. And a solo parent can never neglect her duties, right?
You feel the knot in your stomach as you try to not remind your child that studying for a test does not end once the book is open and the cat is sitting on it. You try to politely check that the teacher really allows him to turn it in online at 11:55. You suggest that if she needs something printed out, the printer is low on ink so perhaps the work could be finished before all the stores close.
You keep your voice sweet, enticing, and one tone. Your son ignores you. He has his earbuds in. Your daughter growls, exclaims, and slams her door. You pace back and forth. You fold laundry. You do dishes so they won’t hear you muttering to yourself.
You hate this. But who else is going to do it? Should you give up? Just let them do whatever they want? Think about your work? Should you decide not to be the parent who is checking grades online or changing dinner table conversation to discuss sleep schedules and homework?
You hate homework. You don’t want to do it either. This is why you feel so upset. You tell yourself you, too, became an adult after getting a C in Algebra 1. You turned in papers late on The Scarlet Letter (and not Easy A). And by the way, why do none of your children’s friends have this problem with their nuclear parents?
Because they are passing the responsibility back and forth like a Frisbee. Right?
You could do that. You could be the nice, “let’s go get ice cream” mom, and then the stern, “not until you turn in your history paper” mom. You could also stand on your head and meditate while your kids make themselves dinner. You could fly off to Vegas and sing with Britney Spears too. Oops, I did it again.
So, you text someone. Anyone:
“Why can’t they see that I am doing this for them?”
And then it hits you. You’re doing it for you. To prove you are a good mom. Like dental visits, it’s for their good but better for your sense of yourself. You want to be sure you are being not just a good mom but a great Solo Mom! You are never going to stop being a good parent! Two good parents in fact! Not even when you look in the mirror and the Thing stares back at you.
So here’s my homework for you! Keep nagging. Keep bugging. Keep parenting. And realize that probably in the end, it will not make or break your child’s life. And relax. Yes, it’s all on you. But you’ve got this!
They got potty trained. They learned how to read and write. They can do this too. One day, sooner than you think, one of your children will call you from his college dorm room and say, ”But I thought you were going to remind me!”
Image via Shutterstock.com
Margot Kessler, a screen and television writer living in Los Angeles, is the sporadically witty Solo Mom of two lovely daughters.
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