Thursday, March 6, 2014

On The Increasingly Complex Algorithm of Parenthood

When I was 15 or so I asked my dad to help me with some algebra homework.  I was not good at algebra way back then (she notes, as though she might be much better at algebra now) but my father was purported to be quite handy at math so who better to ask?

My father gave the text book a cursory glance and began telling me about the stock market.   I  hate to out my father but I really do not think that he knew a lot about the stock market. Clearly, however, he felt more secure opining about the stock market than he did about my algebra homework.  Algebra is a less nebulous subject, to be fair.  I mean,  we can talk all day about why our net worth has declined or blossomed, blaming all sorts of things-the price of twink lots in Judina, the prevalence of snark wood in Delusia-but in the end, algebra has one right answer per problem.  It's rather exact, isn't it?  And my father had no bloody idea how to solve that problem.

Why would he? Chicken Theory #134 states that 98.2% of the population has no practical use for algebra. The 1.6% who do have a use for algebra are algebra teachers.  And the other .2% (good for you for picking up on that; you are obviously very good at decimals) are advocates in Washington for algebra education. Or maybe they work for NASA.  Maybe NASA knows practical uses for algebra. But I digress.

What I'm leading up to is that I asked my father ONE time for help on my homework.  I don't recall ever asking anyone else.  I never asked for help on book reports, didn't require assistance building a catapult, and wasn't quizzed on my math facts.

Now that I'm a parent, things are different.

My first grader's homework assignments go something like this:  Regular homework-10 minutes per grade level,  math facts-15 minutes per night, reading-15-30 minutes per night, writing-4 sentences per night and don't forget to practice your spelling words and build a rocket and study for the SAT! Add in dinner, bath-time and bed-time routines and that is a pretty tight schedule which, and I can't emphasize this enough,  must be supervised.

Not only did my parents not help with homework, half the time they weren't even sure where the hell we were.  We had free reign, from a tender age, over not only our three acres, but the entire neighborhood.  My parents came home, made dinner, and we kids showed up around five, as we had been trained from an early age, to wash our hands and eat.   Then we cleared the table and watched the news. Then maybe we watched a sitcom like  Happy Days or Laverne and Shirley.  We ate ice cream, all lined up along the imaginary divide between the kitchen, where we were allowed to consume food, and the living room, where we were not.  Maybe Dad fell asleep in his LaZ-Boy. Maybe us kids did our homework after school, maybe we didn't.  My parents weren't concerned.  Homework was our problem until the principal called or report cards came out.

Because when I was a kid things were different.

You weren't allowed homework until you went to Junior High.  It was something you looked forward to because it meant you were older and more mature; a big shot.  Only  big kids got to do homework. You didn't need help doing it because you were 11 or 12 years old by that time. You knew what to do and you were motivated to do it because, my God, you waited all these years to get homework and now you finally had some.  You were one important SOB, toting home your books and five subject notebooks (back packs? planners? Please).

Back when I was a kid my parents delighted in telling us how much easier we had it than when they were kids.  They had to walk a mile to school.  Up hill in the snow. Both ways. Barefoot.  They had one outfit and by the end of the year, it stood up by itself in the corner of the bedroom they shared with their four siblings and two sets of grandparents.  They got a new pair of shoes every September whether they needed them or not.  I could go on, but you know these things about my parents, I'm sure.

It's true, I had a peaceful middle class American childhood.  The only thing I really had to worry about were those starving children I was depriving in Africa if I didn't eat all my mashed potatoes.

But back to modern day parenting...

I've spent years of my life driving my kids around because it's not safe to let them loose in our suburban neighborhood. I've memorized "Where  the Wild Things Are" and "Goodnight Moon".  I am regularly subjected to the unconventional wisdom of Captain Underpants.  I work 45-50 hours a week, bring work home, and have supervised mountains of homework. I'm literally afraid of food; does it have sugar, is it a GMO, is it organic? OMG the price is astronomical....In addition, our mortgage is 99 million and although I live several miles from the nearest water source, I wonder if we should buy flood insurance.  I'm paying into a social security fund that won't be there to collect from by the time I can retire at 75, if I live that long what with all the air pollution, resistant flu strains and nuclear weapon threats.

All that, and  I'm supposed to age like Christie Brinkley, execute a bloody bucket list, and keep up with social media.

And do yoga instead of lunch.

Mom and Dad, you had it so much easier as a parent than I do.

I'm exhausted.

At times like this I wonder about dropping off the grid.  Retreating into a simpler existence.

But it seems like so much work, you know?  Selling the house, moving to the woods, building a yurt, homeschooling, gardening, actually building shit that gets stuff done without electricity, selling that extra power we generate to buy goats and chickens, bartering eggs and goat cheese to buy raw wool to spin into yarn to make into socks, killing the chickens and goats, cooking them...

I mean, really, I might as well stay right here, stop procrastinating and do my bloody kid's homework for him so that I can watch "Friends" reruns in peace, like any decent 21st-century parent would do.

I don't have it so bad.  I could use a new pair of shoes, though.

Chicken out

This is a photo of a really nice Yurt I snatched from "The Guardian".  Suffice it to say my yurt would not turn out like this.


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