As I sit here, mentally bracing for yet another snowstorm, Jess is sitting behind me at the kitchen table doing her homework. At least I think she is doing her homework. She has a newly sharpened pencil complete with a neon green eraser on the end, her backpack at her feet and worksheets (aside: I kinda long for the smell of mimeos from my childhood) are strewn about. She is listening to music. Correction, we are listening to music – the volume of her iPhone leaving me to wonder what exactly the headphones are accomplishing.
I began by suggesting which morphed into asking (with a touch of pleading) and then outright demanding that she do her work for hours now, finally putting my foot down and threatening to take away not just one, but all of her myriad electronics if she did not do it rightthissecond. She wasn’t buying it until I unplugged her laptop from the desk where it was charging and began to walk out of the room with it cradled under my arm. Apparently I hit her sweet spot and she relented.
What is so remarkable about this scenario is how utterly unremarkable it is. This scene could be (and probably is) playing out in homes across America. Boys, girls…they are all supposed to be tackling their homework but instead many are relishing the fantasy of (yet another) snow-day. I am vaguely aware that there are children (although I have never birthed one) that approach their homework without argument, threats or tears (mine, that is). That has not been my experience. Which I kinda like right about now what with its total normalcy and all.
Jess is, in many ways (although certainly not all) a typical tween. She’s got the attitude, the internal conflict and the utter inability to get up in the morning. A part of her wants to remain a little kid, while another part fights fiercely for her independence and freedom. Earlier tonight, in fact, she overheard a phone call I received inviting me to come meet for dinner right around the corner. Her Eddie Haskell-esque insistence that I go and “take some time for myself” seemed a wee bit too enthusiastic, leaving me to wonder exactly why she was being so (apparently) selfless. I opted to stay home. I am quite sure her desire for me to go out was more to create an opportunity to watch inane television and eat junk food in peace than anything else. It most definitely was not to create a quiet homework environment. She is at that delicious age that I did not fear anything more sinister or sophisticated behind her apparent sensitivity to my (scant) free time. I am relishing it as I know how quickly we move from tween to all out teen.
She has now migrated back up to her bedroom where she insists she is completing her math homework. I have told her that she must come down and show me the completed assignment which is funny, actually, since she and I both know that any math she does is lost on me (has been since third grade) and any sheet with numbers, circles and arrows (arrows are a math, thing, right?) would, to me, seem like a great mathematical accomplishment. For now we (sorta) understand one another… I guess we are both luxuriating in the calm before the teenage storm which could well come as quickly and inaccurately predicted at tomorrow’s weather.