Desk, Meet Head

Hoping to prevent the inevitable brain drain of summer, I spent a small fortune on activity books and flash cards for my seven-year old daughter last June. And since school starts in just twelve days, I figured this might be a good time to start thinking about cracking those puppies open. Sure, it means I’ll lose a very efficient doorstop (that kid can prop open a door like nobody’s business!), but I’m willing to make the sacrifice. Also, I’m kidding. I’d never use my daughter as a doorstop. Not when she’s awake, at least.

Anyhoodles, I spent the morning reminding myself why I’d make a lousy teacher. We started out great, my child practically drooling from her all-consuming hunger for knowledge. Or maybe I forgot to feed her breakfast. Either way, the novelty of playing school with Mommy wore off faster than you can say, “I’m calling CPS.”

The hemming began halfway through the first worksheet, followed quickly by the inevitable hawing. And as everyone knows, hawing is the gateway drug of dithering about.

Thus we entered the five stages of W.O.R.K. (WTF, OMG, RAWR, KMN). For you web neophytes, that’s what-the-fudge, oh-my-gosh, rawr (it means “I love you” in dinosaur), and kill-me-now.

Stage One: Whining

For readers without children, try to imagine the sound of a thousand fingernails scraping across a chalkboard. Now imagine your last nerve as said chalkboard, and the scraping sounds as every word emitted from your child’s mouth, mixed with all the tears that no one hears you cry.

It usually goes something like this:

“But whyyyyyyyyyy do I have to write the alphabet?”

“You said this would be fuuuuuuuuun.”

“How much mooooooooooore?”

“I want to go play MySims Agents on the Wii. This is haaaaaaard.”

Okay, so that last one was actually me. Whining begets whining, apparently. Also, that game is super fun.



Stage Two: Denial

This stage is categorized by toddler-onset dementia with elements of willful ignorance. Common symptoms include the inability to hold a pencil correctly, not remembering how to write one’s name, and claiming you didn’t learn how to do that in first grade, despite the HUNDREDS OF TIMES I’VE SEEN YOU DO THIS VERY GODDAMNED THING SO STOP STALLING AND DO IT ALREADY.

Ahem. I mean, “Just keep trying, Sweetie. That’s all Mommy asks.”


Stage Three: Arguing

The Arguing Stage can occur independently, or concurrently with the Denial Stage. Note that logic is not a requirement for Stage Three. Neither is the use of critical thinking, reasoning, or concentration. For further discussion, refer to the following transcript from today’s session.

Me: “What’s eight plus seven?”
Child: “House.”
Me: (blinking) “Um …”
Child: “That’s a picture of a house.”
Me: “Yes. And above it is a box labeled “Instructions.” What do the instructions say?”
Child: (reads) “Add the numbers inside the house. Oh.” (writes answer)
Me: “Honey, that five is backward.”
Child: “No, it isn’t”
Me: “If you don’t believe me, just look at the gazillion examples on the same page as the backward five you just wrote.”
Child: “Well, that’s not how we write it in French.”
Me: (takes a deep breath) “Numbers are indeed pronounced differently in French, but they’re written the same as in English. The language doesn’t affect it.”
Child: “Not if they’re in Chinese.”
Me: (twitching) “Grrrbbllk.”
Child: “Mommy, why are stabbing yourself with that pencil?”
Me: “Just write the $%#& number already!”




Stage Four: Bargaining

Expect a drastic shift in tactics, should the subject fail to reach its goal through the use of whining, denial, and arguing. Ranging from subtle cajoling to outlandish suggestions, the Bargaining Phase can include such gems as:

“Can I get you another cup of coffee? Including distractions, I’ll only be in the kitchen for an hour.”

“Instead of math, how about I make your bed every morning for the next 82,000 mornings?”

“If you tell me the answers, I’ll write them down and pretend I did it myself.”

“I’ll give you a dollar if you just finish this @#*% worksheet!”

(Again, that last one was me.)


Stage Five: Acceptance

If we ever make it to this stage, I’ll let you know what it looks like.

And so ends Day One.

I’m exhausted, my head is screaming, and I owe that sly little child four dollars.

Honestly, I don’t know how teachers do this week in and week out. Even our recess breaks wore me out, although that might have had more to do with playing badminton in August, in Texas, when it’s over 100-degrees outside. But, still.

I have always respected teachers, and today was an excellent reminder of the love, patience, and effort they bring to the profession. I had ONE CHILD to manage over the course of ONE DAY — and I’m already Googling the rates for Kumon Learning Center. How the heck do real teachers haul themselves to school each year, knowing they’ll be imprisoned with a roomful of noisy, misbehaving miscreants? I wouldn’t trade places for the world. I’m just glad we show appreciation for our nation’s teachers with super high salaries and the collective bargaining rights of organized labor unions. Oh, wait …

Seriously, folks. Now more than ever, it’s important to rally around teachers. Our children are our future, our best hope for fixing the continual clusterfuck in which mankind always seems to find itself. Without our teachers, the lives of our children — indeed, our very future — is beyond bleak.

At back-to-school time especially, I offer the teachers of the world an enormous THANK YOU. Thank you for coming back, thank you for signing up for another year of torture, and thank you for the mountain of work under which you'll soon be crushed. This country holds legions of parents, from helicopter to absentee, who will do everything possible this year to make your job harder, blame you for their parental failings, and issue blood-pressure-popping statements like, “Teachers get off at three each day and don’t work over the summer … what an easy life!”

Forgive us, please, for we know not what we say.

Also, how much looooooonger until school starts? This is haaaaaaaarrrrd.




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