Homework and Rage

September 23, 2009

My god, the homework.  And my god, the rage.

As I’ve mentioned previously, my daughter is taking algebra this year.  Algebra as in x=whateverthehellitis.  Algebra as in the only math I have ever truly embraced and fully understood.  (Incidentally, thank you Mr. Fay, my eighth grade algebra teacher.  THANK you.  Because of you I survived college math.)  My daughter is good at math, intuitively adept at maneuvering numbers in her mind, much moreso than I am.  I fully anticipate that in the coming years, she will outstrip both my math knowledge and my innate math abilities.

But.  Holy hell, the kid is eleven.  And stubborn.  Oh wait, didn’t I already say that she was eleven?  Stubborn comes with the territory.

She has struggled to get her Algebra homework done since the start of the school year.  First, I think it was that it was ALGEBRA (jebus, eleven year olds think and talk in a lot of capital letters), and she was freaked out that she couldn’t do it.  But then we got her settled down and she realized that she could.  Then, she simply didn’t want to do the homework, which is completely understandable.  Not so understandable is throwing a massive hissy because the homework exists in the first place.  Did I mention that she’s eleven?

But we were working with the massive hissiness of the eleven year old brain.

Tonight?  She really doesn’t understand something in the homework.  Something pretty basic, yet fairly complex.  So…I tried to explain it to her.  Her friend who was over tried to explain it to her.  Tim tried to explain it to her.  The cat…well, the cat just left the room.  And she would not listen.  She WOULD NOT (the mothers of eleven year olds also begin to talk and think in all caps) listen.  And oh my god, the anger I started to feel.  The fist-clenching, heart-pounding rage.  RAGE, I tell you.

Really, she was being completely unreasonable and I think, purposely obtuse.  She was screeching at me that I was wrong and the book was wrong.  Implicit in the screeching is that I (and her friend and Tim and the book) are all complete idiots and that she, SHE ALONE, has discovered the mathematical principle of adding/subtracting negative numbers.  She was, plainly, making an ass of herself.  And not getting the homework done either, I might add.

I said to Tim, who had waded into the steaming shit pile that was this parental moment, “I’m really trying to teach her this.”

She said, “Well you’re doing a bad job at it.”  She sneered.  Sneered.

Tim caught my eye as I walked out of the room, because holy crap did I need to walk out of the room, and said, “I poured you a glass of wine.”

And he’s in there with her now.  And she just came out and apologized to me.  And I’m drinking a glass of wine.

Look, I know that she was hideous.  HIDEOUS.  But it still amazes me how angry she can make me.  My jaw is still clenched, and I’m sure that my blood pressure has not returned to normal.  Maybe it’s that you love your kid so much, and you so desperately want them to grow and learn, both in math and more, in terms of her character.  Maybe it’s that the good moments are so sweet right now, that the good moments give me these tiny sips of the woman she will become:  sweet, hilarious, brilliant, sensitive, kind…I want to drink in these moments…so the bad moments, the homework-bad, adolescent-bad moments, that defy any of her potential…they make me nuts.  NUTS, I say.

I’m sure that I could use all sorts of parenting advice (yes, I know, I know, don’t engage, etc.), but I’m not sure that this rage is all that easily solved.  Loving someone and wanting the best for them — especially when that someone is an adolescent girl — has a flipside.  It’s so heartbreaking and frustrating when that someone refuses your help.  We’ve all heard that adage about how having a child means that you wear your heart on the outside of your body.  I don’t think I understood, hell, I don’t think I yet understand how it also means that your heart can feel smashed when that child makes mistakes.  How that child can hurt you.  And how damnably mad I can get at her.

By the way, 3(7x – 5) -10?

It’s NOT NOT NOT NOT 21x-5.