Tuesday, February 12, 2008

From Each According To His Ability

Groundhog Day is all well and good, but around these parts the continuing presence of winter is determined by whether Snag sees his shadow. I can assure you he does not. How could he? The goddamned sun hasn't been out in three goddamned months.

Not that I'm irritable. Notwithstanding my family's lies, I'm as easygoing as ever, floating along on a lifeboat of denial and bourbon. I get up, go to work, spread my special brand of sunshine around the office, and come home to the welcoming arms of my loving children.

My favorite nights are those where they need assistance with their homework. Nothing like firing up the old frontal lobe and digging into some book learnin'.

"Need help with that, son?" I ask my middle child.


"Let me see what you've got."

"It's math. I'll wait for mom."

When I was in high school my hair reached almost to my waist. My 10th grade geometry teacher had a poster on his wall of George Washington with a crew cut. The poster's caption said, "Beautify America. Get a haircut." Since then math has not been my strong suit.

I tell him, "Mom's got class herself tonight. It's me or nothing."

He weighs the pros and cons for a minute before deciding I might be slightly better than nothing. I grab the worksheet and look at it. He's learning how to graph functions.

"Hmm," I say, cocking my head like a dog watching Masterpiece Theater. "Do you have your book with you?"

"You don't know how to this, do you?" he asks sadly.

"Sure I do. It's just been a while. Give me a minute to figure it out."

I claw through the pages looking for an example while he mutters under his breath about math being a waste of time.

"No it's not," I say with as much enthusiasm as I can muster. "Think of it as a puzzle."

"I hate puzzles," he tells me.

"Well, you need to understand it anyway," I say, while continuing to search for an example. Finally I find one and start scratching on a piece of scratch paper.

"Don't you even know which way the x and y axes go?" he says.

This prompts my oldest son to look up from his own homework, some kind of topographical computation. It hurts my head to be in the room with it. "That's why you need to get mom to help you," he tells his brother. "Dad doesn't know anything."

"I do too," I protest.

"Like what?" demands my youngest, working on his own assignment. Having recently been the beneficiary of my help, he's understandably skeptical.

"I'm good at English," I say.

"Which is even dumber than math," says my oldest. For a straight A student he's got one hell of an attitude.

"Oh, burn," exclaims my youngest, apropos of nothing.

Meanwhile my middle kid is getting increasingly frustrated. "Do you know this or not?" he asks.

"Hold on," I say, turning back to the problem. "See, you mark a point here and another one here and another one here. Then you draw a line through them."

The boy stares at the page and then at me. "I'm pretty sure it's supposed to be a straight line, not an arc," he says.

My oldest slams down his pencil. "I'll show him. You're driving me crazy."

I must be if he's been provoked into helping his brother. They consult briefly and the middle one returns to his problems, newly enlightened.

"Hey buddy, how's your homework going?" I ask the youngest in an effort to redeem myself.

He gets a panicked expression and throws himself over his book. "No!" he wails.

"Why don't you make dinner?" the oldest says to me. "That good chicken recipe you have."

"Yeah, that one's great," says the youngest.

"Make the pasta too," the middle one tells me. "I like that."

They're patronizing me but it's better than nothing. I get to work on the food and by the time it's ready their homework is done.

"Thanks, Dad," they say.

"No problem, guys," I tell them. "I'm always happy to help."


Brando said...

No Snag Left Behind.

Jennifer said...

Is that the chicken recipe that calls for a bottle of bourbon?

Kathleen said...

your time will come. someday one of them is going to be assigned to be the moose in the school play.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Snag will be so proud, like Matt damon's pop.

Snag said...

I thought all chicken recipes call for a bottle of bourbon.

And who needs them to be the moose in the school play when there's next year's bingo night - The Moosening.

Kathleen said...

High School Moosical will totally sell out.

Jennifer said...

If you do Moose Bingo, I am so there!!!

Anonymous said...

LOL @ High School Moosical, Kathleen.

Snag, I stopped helping blue kid do math when he was in first grade. My biggest contribution to his math skills has been continually asking him for years...Don't you guys do flash cards? I loved flash cards!

And Snag? You must be really smart at something. Having three boys (totall sexist intent!) sitting down at one time (when they're supposed to, I take it) to do homework?

Bravo! A+ to you.