If a Train is Traveling at 85 mph...
by Adair Lara
My kid's school expects parents to pitch in.
But while they used to be content to have us organize the occasional bake sale or help paint the school once a year, they now want us to sign contracts swearing we won't be down at the pool hall the night before our 10-year-old's term paper on sea turtles is due.
It's their idea that a child benefits from our wisdom and experience. We, in turn, get to be thrilled by what a bright little fellow he is. The evening passes pleasantly as parent and child bond while painting marbles to resemble dinosaur eggs or fanning out to find objects that begin with the letter "B."
I used to look forward to homework hour. My daydream about being a mother included the image of myself helping a child with his homework, our faces both aglow in the lamplight. As I murmured softly, his dear face would light with comprehension before excitedly scribbling down the correct answer. "Gee, thanks, Mom!"
Trouble is, my children seemed to sense my pent-up enthusiasm. Morgan was afraid that if she asked me where Rome was, I'd get so excited that by sunrise, I'd be reciting the death scene from Julius Caesar over her slumped form.
She'd clutch her backpack warily. Turns out she had no homework. She did it in school. The teacher forgot to assign any. Her homework, was, uh, stolen. "Honest, Mom, it was right in my pocket."
I'd shiver of course, at this reminder that our neighborhood, so close to many schools, was a favorite turf for the dread spelling-homework gangs. These are desperate times we live in. Morgan's homework was probably on an unmarked truck speeding toward the state line.
Eventually, though, she would admit she did have homework. She'd unearth a piece of binder paper from beneath the banana peelings in her backpack. I'd smooth it out happily and squeeze in next to her at the desk.
Having been through school myself, I had a lot of skills: how to diagram a sentence, how to make a pig out of paper maché, how to draw a pilgrim. These, like fruitcake, are only good for passing on.
Once, I was already searching for a black crayon to draw the pilgrim's conical hat when I found myself faced with a long division problem.