Some women dread the summer months and the unavoidable protests of boredom. No such thing at the Lofaro home.
We (the children and I) stay up late and sleep in late and watch cartoons and dress by noon. It’s “every man for himself” at breakfast and lunch.
- We read new books and rent old movies and finish puzzles.
- We take day trips and overnight trips and beach trips.
- We have sports camp and church camp and VBS.
- We’re regulars at the local pool and occasionally spend the day at a water park.
- When it’s really hot outside, we go bowling or stroll through the mall.
When Frank walks in at 6:30, there’s not a homework assignment in sight. If we’re not there, he dials my cell phone and brings deli to the pool or tells me what to pick up for grilling.
Most summer nights culminate with ice cream and “I Love Lucy” reruns. Summertime . . . and the livin’ is easy. I really love it.
When the school year ends, it is never a moment too soon.
Homework, quizzes, tests, science projects, book reports—they exhaust me! And there’s more: field trips, extra help, conferences, PTA meetings, fund raisers, lunches, cupcakes, elections, plays, choir, band, Teacher Appreciation Week, Secretary’s Day, Show N Tell.
Where does a mother go to resign? How about a leave of absence? A day off?
My husband and I share very different philosophies regarding homework and study habits.
He is quite relentless about the subject of homework. Can you spell B-E-A-R? When the kids are sent home with notes or if their grades dropped, he would glare at me and invariably deliver the now infamous speech:
Ellie, we have arranged for you not to have to work outside of the home so that you could fully focus on the children. I’m not concerned when there is no dinner or the laundry is backed up but you MUST make their homework your top priority.
That speech always produces an array of emotional responses—some I am unable to mention here—suffice it to say the heart can be unlovely.
In Frank’s perfect world, he would stroll in at 6:30 and I would be gleefully rotating to each child to correct their spelling, review math formulas and assist with special projects.
He had our second grader writing rough drafts for her book summary every night. Poor thing, I pray she doesn’t end up in therapy.
Jordan is a sloppy, forgetful, perfectly normal boy but Frank warns him that his present work habits will ruin his entire future—personally and professionally—and that he may be a candidate for welfare if he doesn’t shape up and step in line.
Paris is completely self-motivated which is appropriate for the secondary school years. Nonetheless, Frank has decided she must read one additional novel a week during seventh grade to enhance her verbal skills for the college entrance exams which she would eventually take five years later. (gag me with a spoon!)
So, top management sends down orders and middle management is supposed to carry them out, but now I understand why the workers sometimes revolt. I can’t blame them and I have often warned Frank of the backlash he may face twenty years down the road. (Our kids are afraid Frank will assign homework to the grandchildren.)
It’s very tough being the middleman. Paris was frustrated with her “extracurricular” reading load. She let off some steam.
“I can’t believe Daddy is making us do so much work!”
Experts say you should not contradict your spouse in front of the children or management in front of labour—but I’m only human. I slipped.
“Me neither! It’s getting out of hand. I’ve had enough!” I was putting finishing touches on Jordan’s volcano and the plaster was drying quickly on my eyelashes. Jordan chimed in.
“Mom, I can’t take it any more. After this, you have to help me with my math.”
“I don’t understand your math Jordan. It’s all different now.”
“But Mom, you were a teacher!”
“I taught English. I hated math—still do.”
“Well then, you have to help me write my book report.”
“Jordan, I already went to fifth grade. I passed fifth grade. I’m not doing fifth grade again. Do your own book report!” He had Frank’s look in his eyes.
“Dad said you have to help me. Priorities—remember?”
Capri joined the bandwagon.
“Mommy, I have too much weading! Can you please wead me this book? I love how you wead!” I felt that “Calgon, take me away,” sensation suddenly come over me.
I don’t recall getting help with anything school related during my childhood.
My mother packed our lunches, laid out clean (and pressed) clothes and occasionally rubbed on Vic’s Vapo-Rub or Calamine lotion—depending on the season. Not once do I remember her sitting at the kitchen table to review math problems or research the Middle Ages. I called her on Mother’s Day. My fears were confirmed.
“Hi Ma, it’s me. Happy Mother’s Day!”
“Thank you Lella. You’re one of my greatest gifts.”
“Thanks Ma . . . listen Ma . . . did you ever help me with my homework?”
“No, no. You were so smart, you never needed help.”
“Were the boys also smart? You never helped them either.”
“The boys turned out just fine.”
“Were you involved with the PTA?”
“Yes, of course, I paid the dues every year.”
“Did you come on any field trips?”
“No honey, only the pushy mothers went.”
“Did you ever help me with a special project? I don’t remember having any art materials in the house.”
“Ellie, don’t be silly. You kids were in one of the best school districts on Long Island.”
“But Ma, we were never allowed to have glitter, Silly Putty or Magic Markers in the house. My projects were shoe-boxes coloured with crayons. We were deprived!”
“Everything you needed was at school. There was no reason to mess the house.”
“Why didn’t you read to me? You know—the Dick and Jane books.”
“Oh Lella—what’s the matter with you? I didn’t read out loud so you would not get confused. Thirty five years ago, my accent was still very strong. Be thankful.”
“How come you never checked my homework?”
“You were perfect. What was there to check? Happy Mother’s Day Booboolla. Except for moving my grandchildren 300 miles away, you’re still perfect.”
“Thank you Mother. So are you.”
Our culture encourages us to blame others for our pain.
Parents, friends, old lovers. Science points to genetics—DNA—predisposition. You are what you are because that’s what your father was or that’s what your mother is. Even some Christians feel a certain amount of exoneration by pointing out the “sins of their forefathers.” The Living God has decreed that “the old things have passed away and all things (including us!) have been made new.” In Christ I am a new creation.
The Father I must emulate is perfect.
That pretty much cancels out my list of excuses.
I’ll try to do better with homework next year.