Sunday, November 06, 2011

6th Grade Homework = Migraine + Connection

As I sit here writing this, I have a splitting headache that has so far not responded to twice the recommended dose of Advil and I am sporting a grin a mile wide. Yes, you read that right.

I am sporting a grin a mile wide after a Sunday night marathon homework session with Eve. No, she didn't save all of it for the last minute - just the most complex stuff. And normally, despite the fact that the subject was Science and that is generally my forte, I would have asked Bubba to step in for me, but he is out of town for the next few days, so I was it. Whether we liked it or not.

Eve and I have always had a bit of difficulty doing homework together. I generally chalk it up to the fact that we are two peas in a pod. Twins separated by three decades. Ex-act-ly a-like. Eve starts out with a chip on her shoulder if she is forced to ask me for help with anything. She is fiercely independent, a perfectionist, a control freak and stubborn. She quickly gets defensive and degenerates into high-pitched squeals of indignance if I don't understand precisely what she needs from me on the first explanation. God forbid I ask to see the directions or her notes from class. Bubba? He can joke with her, sit for hours and puzzle over something, or just tell her to suck it up and dig in and she smiles sweetly and follows his lead. It used to drive me nuts. Until I remembered how I felt about my mother when I was Eve's age. Until I read The Four Agreements and learned how to not take it personally.

So Eve and I, we are a bit gunshy about doing homework together. But tonight there was no choice. Bubba was away and this assignment is due tomorrow morning. I would be lying if I said I wasn't worried. But I swore not to let it show.

As Eve began explaining the assignment to me, my inner self let out a colossal groan. She was supposed to draw 3-dimensional schematics for an invention she would craft using pulleys, gears or levers.

Permit me to digress for a moment. There are a few things that I absolutely cannot do. Things I used to struggle with but eventually came to terms with the fact that I am incapable of doing. Things I have "traded" in my own mind for other things that I am oddly accomplished at. Fortunately, I have managed to structure my life in order that I don't have to do any of these things. They are (in no particular order):

1. Tying a knot in a balloon. I don't care what you say - you cannot teach me to do it. Been there, tried that, can't do it. Won't even try anymore. Not important.

2. Iron an oxford style shirt. You know, with the collar and buttons and plackets and all that. Again, no interest. Tried a million times.

3. Visualize things in three dimensions in my mind. Nope, can't do it. Took Organic Chemistry in college and had to purchase a set of Tinker Toys in order to put the molecules together and draw them on paper. My brain simply will not wrap around imagining things in 3-D when they are described to me or rendered in 2-D on paper. I can't manage it. At some point my brain simply shuts down during the process of trying.

And now here, I had to help Eve visualize her invention in 3-D and draw it to scale in each of its different perspectives so that her teacher could fully understand it and so that Eve can build it out of foam core according to those drawings.

Hold.
The.
Phone.

I will confess that at one point I had to go get a toilet paper roll and some ribbon to use as props so I could "see" it.

I will also say that about 20 minutes in, Eve was flat on the floor in my closet sobbing and squealing like a pregnant potbellied pig, certain that we couldn't do this.

Normally this is the point where I call Bubba in.

Instead, I dug deep, stayed calm and came at it from another angle.

Somehow, I managed to get her back on track and she responded.
Somehow, when we thought we were done and checked the assignment sheet only to discover that we needed two more drawings, of the individual components to scale, I was able to remind her of how far we had come and help her see that the finish line wasn't that far off.
Somehow, I found myself having fun.

As I played cheerleader from across the kitchen where I was putting dinner together and reminding Lola to tuck her completed homework away in her backpack, I suddenly realized I was enjoying this. Far from feeling frantic and unmoored, I was the picture of calm, pureeing ingredients for soup in the food processor while reminding Eve of the scale and fixing her compass when the lead fell out. No yelling. No reprimands. No whining about "too much homework" or "this is too hard." We were working it out. We had managed to get past the defensiveness and blaming, the intractable positions in our opposite corners, and get it done.

At one point it seemed that all was lost. There was one more component of the project that seemed insurmountable at dinnertime on a Sunday night. And then it happened. I thought outside the box. I lived up to the nickname some of my former co-workers gave me one day: "Queen of the Workaround." Not cheating. Not even a shortcut. But a way to stick our tongues out at that brick wall, turn on our heels and walk right around the damn thing without even breaking a sweat.

As Eve finished packing her now completed homework away I told her how proud I was that she stuck it out and finished. She walked over to me, wrapped her arms around me and gave me the most genuine hug I've had from her since she was a toddler. Resting her head on my heart, she snuggled in tight and murmured, "I love you. Thank you, Mom."

So, yeah. I'm grinning like a fool. Headache and all.

10 comments:

thowling said...

Hurray! So proud of you. This is awesome! I read it as if I were reading the final chapter of a long engaging novel, and I was intensely cheering for you both to reach the goal. And what an ending, it brought tears to my eyes!
So, enjoy this accomplishment, my friend, and the heck with the headache! You rock! :)

Wanda said...

I prescribe another hug for that headache!

leahsthoughts.com said...

Great post! Congrats. And I'm pretty sure I live on a double dose of the prescribed Advil dosage.

thegirlfriendmom said...

Great read, thanks!

Astra said...

Congratulations! I have a 6th grader as well and I could use some of that "calm"! You may be the Queen of the Workaround, I think I am Queen of the Workavoid: When asked for homework help recently by my 10th grader, I took one look at it and said "It's time for a tutor!"

Cindy Brown said...

I'm going to have to get that book you referenced, The Four Agreements. I have had crying homework sessions with both of my children! It can be very frustrating for parents. Glad you persevered.

Kathryn Grace said...

Oh, I remember those days. What a story! You told it so well that I was simultaneously reliving the moments with my eldest and palpitating for you, then breathing deep and calm and smelling the soup. Wonderful share. You're a good mom.

Thank you.

Dee Ready said...

Dear Kari, I am sitting here grinning like the Cheshire cat! What a wonderful story. Delightful. Hopeful. Filled with all the ingredients that make our journey into and with and through life such a glorious adventure.

I am so happy for both of you. In the midst of what seemed for a while like an insurmountable assignment you gently clasped one another's hands and climbed to the peak and discovered a sunrise.

Thank you for sharing this splendid story.

Peace.

Carrie Link said...

I got a migraine just imagining having to do that! (But I can tie a mean ass knot on a balloon AND iron an Oxford like there's no tomorrow, so, there's that.)

Deb Shucka said...

You rock so much as a mom! How far you've come in the last couple of years. I hope your headache ended and you were able to truly celebrate this amazing day.

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