Disappointed!

Clone Troopers have seized control of the White House again!
Clone Troopers have seized control of the White House again! This is what happens when someone cancels Homework Club.

Three afternoons a week, our sons have been attending Homework Club at their school. They don’t normally have homework over the weekends, which means that only one night a week have we had to step in and help them with their school work. Given the years of frustration and discord during homework time because we’re not able to teach our kids the way they need to learn, Homework Club has been a family miracle. Like parting-of-the-Red-Sea level of miracle. It has restored peace in our home, given the boys a chance to get help from people who understand what they need, and delayed the final and irrevocable departure of my sanity.

Then, tonight, I got an email that rocked my world. The State of Colorado has decided that Homework Club falls into the classification of school age after school care and, as such, requires a license. Seriously? Some overzealous person is looking to increase revenue for the State of Colorado, apparently. Anyway, the email states that Homework Club, along with Art Club, Lego Club, Chess Club, Choir, etc., are cancelled until further notice while the school jumps through state-mandated hoops to acquire the necessary piece of paper allowing them to continue the programs they’ve been operating successfully for decades. I read the email a couple of times trying to decide how to feel about it. My brain finally settled on the scene from A Fish Called Wanda when Otto opens the safe to find it empty. Disappointed! Bureaucracy tests my patience. And bureaucracy really aggravates me when it cuts my kids’ school day short by an hour thereby cutting my peace and quiet short by an hour. And, as disappointed as I was, I knew the boys would be worse. They choose Homework Club. I daily give them the option, and they’d rather spend an extra hour at school than deal with my help. No lie.

I steeled myself for delivering the bad news. Honestly, I expected a full-tilt, murder-of-Archduke-Franz-Ferdinand revolt once they discovered they’d have to go back to doing homework with me rather than their teachers. We used to spend hours doing homework together, and they have post traumatic stress disorder from those days when most of us would end up either yelling or crying each evening during the process. I tried to assess the best way to minimize the damage. I decided that I would approach it as if it were no big deal. My experience has been that the greater reaction they see from me, the greater the panic that ensues. When I am calm and deliberate, they tend to handle bad news much better. Lead by example, right? I took a deep breath and went to the basement to interrupt their Lego play.

“I’ve got some potentially bad news, guys,” I said evenly.

“What?” Luke asked.

“Did someone die?” Joe inquired.

“Nothing like that. The school is cancelling Homework Club for a while. I guess you’re going to be stuck doing homework with me,” I said with utmost nonchalance. “They are having to get a special license from the state. They’re working on it.”

“That’s going to really mess things up for some people,” Joe noted. “Some kids’ parents can’t come get them until 5 because of work.”

“I know. It’s a bummer.”

“Man,” Luke sighed. “And I just got into Art Club too.”

“It happens. The school is committed to getting things back up and running as quickly as possible. I’m sure you’ll get to finish your project soon.”

“Okay,” Luke replied.

“Hey Luke,” Joe started, “want to play Skylanders?”

And just like that it was over. Potentially catastrophic nuclear meltdown avoided. Sometimes the simplest solutions really are the best. Now I just have to convince myself that I’m prepared for our own personal homework club again. I too have PTSD about our previous homework experiences. I’m not gonna lie. It was rough. Thinking I might just have to pretend that 3:30 is the new 5 o’clock until Homework Club is back on our docket. I hope the state gets its stuff together before I become a permanent day drinker.

Queue George Michael’s 1990 Hit…FREEDOM!

Harry Flufferpants, Esq.
Harry Flufferpants, Esq.

One of the best things that has come from our sons’ beginning at a new school is the stress it’s taken out of my life. For years our boys were struggling to keep up in class, an issue that was never more obvious than when they would pull out their homework. Every night was a battle. Homework that, according to their teachers and reports from friends whose children were in the same class, should have taken no more than an hour or an hour and a half each night took our boys upwards of three hours. There was non-stop whining, pleading, bargaining, and crying, and that’s without even mentioning how hard the boys took it. Five evenings out of the week (because, let’s face it, the weekend’s homework was not worked on slowly over two days but was instead busted out in one heinous rush on Sunday night), there was no peace in our house. Math assignments, book reports, and spelling troubled me more than any other thing in my life, including midlife crisis and the amount of time I had to wait for the next season of Downton Abbey. Those days are gone.

In their place, we have creativity, laughter, and family time. Because the boys work so hard all day at school to overcome their learning disabilities and because the school understands that, our boys currently have a manageable hour’s worth of homework each night…with a little extra time needed when special projects are assigned. And as if the one hour limit didn’t provide me with enough solace, the school also offers a homework club each day after school. For a reasonable fee the boys can stay an hour after school and complete their work in a teacher-supervised classroom with other students. It’s pure genius. When I pick up my boys at 4 pm, they are finished for the evening. We are currently mulling over which outside activities they could do, like music lessons and tae kwon do, because they will at last have the time to partake. I’m giddy simply thinking about it. They are finally getting to experience what life has been like for their friends. I’m excited for them. It’s about time.

In the meantime, our boys have taken their extra time to try new things and exercise their imaginations. Joe has been discovering graphic novels (books with more pictures than words that are perfect for dyslexic kids…get your minds out of the gutter, people) and Luke has been engaged creating the Museum of Cute. He’s using his iPad to print out photos of cute things, like teacup-sized Pomeranian dogs and mini pigs wearing rain boots, and organizing a collection, which he plans to tour our families through in a few weeks on opening night. Tonight there was an explosion of cute when he brought me this picture of a tiny, white Pomeranian with a mustache. The photo is labeled, “My Lawyer, Harry Flufferpants, Esq.” I can’t make this stuff up.

I also can’t seem to get the chorus from George Michael’s 1990 hit Freedom out of my head. Normally, this would be a problem for me, but I’m so relaxed after my new nighttime ritual mug of chamomile tea that I can’t even find the residual daily angst to care. I think my zen just got a bit closer.

Looking For A Pay Raise Now

Luke in his self-imposed cleaning exile.

Being a parent is work. It’s work every day. Some days the work is difficult, and you need a drink before 5 p.m. Other days the work is less stressful, and it feels more like play. In either case, parenting is a job that you can’t escape. From the minute that child comes into your life, things are different. You are different.

Today, my little Luke came home from school with summer break fever and without his homework folders. The math homework he was supposed to be working on tonight was apparently left on his desk instead of making its way into his backpack for the ride home. Luke hasn’t forgotten his homework once all year. His oversight hit him hard.

“I can’t believe I did that. I can’t believe I forgot it,” he said repeatedly.

“It’s okay, Luke. It happens. You’ll just have twice as much to do tomorrow, but it will all be fine,” I reassured him.

“I can still work on some other stuff,” he said, reaching for the memory verse he needed to work on. He took it in the living room and started practicing it. A few minutes later, he returned. I could tell he was still angry at himself. He’s a lot like his mother, proud and stubborn, but I want him to be better than his mother so I tried reasoning with him.

“You’re being too hard on yourself, Luke. You haven’t forgotten anything all year. It happens sometimes. It will be fine. No worries.”

He went upstairs, and I lost track of him while I started Joe on his book report, a game board about the historical fiction work he’d recently finished reading. (Have I mentioned how much I hate grade school book reports?) When I found a good stopping point to escape from the dreaded game board, I went in search of Luke. I found him in the basement. He was sitting in the middle of a big pile of Legos, cleaning up.

“Luke…what are you up to?” I inquired.

“Cleaning. Since I forgot my math homework I thought I should try to do something else good.” My little guy was punishing himself for his oversight.

“You realize, sweetie, that I’m not angry at you for forgetting your work. It’s the end of the school year and you’re excited. Sometimes people forget things. It’s not the end of the world,” I told him.

“I know,” he replied. “I still can’t believe I forgot it, though.” He was taking this much harder than I thought.

Damn. He is my kid. Poor thing.

Now, I’d like to say that I immediately stopped him from cleaning the basement because I didn’t want him torturing himself any further, but I can’t. He is me. I can completely relate to his need to be angry at himself a little bit longer for his error and to try to make up for his mistake in some small fashion. Not wanting to interrupt his process, I let him keep right on cleaning. Besides, a clean basement is a clean basement however you come by it, right?

Parenting is work. It’s a lot of work for something you volunteered to do and will never be paid for. But, there are days like today, when I look at my sons and truly understand that the investment of time I’m making in them right now is worthwhile. Yes. They’re learning some bad things from me (like how to be hypercritical of their mistakes, apparently), but they’re also learning some good things from me too, like how to take responsibility for their actions and how to turn a negative into something positive. Today I received the first positive performance review I’ve had in a while. It felt good too. Now, if I could just find the person who could give me a pay raise, I’d be all set.