New Math, Old Misery - Anna Rosenblum Palmer

He enters the bedroom at 7:45 in the morning. He has squeezed himself into last year’s hoodie footie pajamas and pulled the hood up over his newly short hair. Seven forty five would be a civilized time of day if it weren’t the hour that he was beginning his math homework. There have been three occasions in the ten collective years of elementary school that I have been pulled down the rabbit hole. I consider this a combination of incredible luck and parenting prowess. Luck because my boys are strong students. Prowess because we established the expectation of homework independence with their very first worksheets. At times we would sit beside them at the battle scarred dining table and work on whatever was lingering over the heads of the heads of the household. Mostly we left them entirely alone. Oliver muttering a constant monologue. Leo asking him politely to work in his head. If ask politely means to bark “shut up.” I have to imagine that since the math meltdowns are so rare they pack years worth of misery into one tantrum. Or maybe the rest of you deal with this regularly. If that is the case I offer you my esteem and sympathy. There are tears and snot of course. Tantrum basics. In a slightly more advanced maneuver we have the writhing whining combination. Where Oliver huddled in the corner over his word problem during last year’s memorable melt down Leo is long with lashing limbs over fractions. Somehow his blue clad body covers our blue batik comforter. I take a moment to consider whether I think the two blues compliment each other or clash. It is not really a question because at this moment everything on earth clashes. “I can’t do it.” he tells me. If “tells” means screaming like he is staring into the great abyss and is keeping himself on this earth purely by the force of his emotion. Forget supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, caaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan’t is clearly the longest word in the human language. It is almost comical. Except now somehow he is strangling on his own upset. His face is purplish red (totally clashing with the comforter), his eyes almost as buggy as our new dog. I tell myself that I child can not choke at will but he is challenging me in the this assumption. Meanwhile time is ticking by. He needs to be out the door at 8:11. It is 7:51. I keep myself from doing the math. There is enough math on the agenda already. I am quiet hoping that my calm is catching. If calm means counting slowly to ten in my head to keep myself from snatching the math workbook and throwing it across the room. Which is one step better from pushing my writhing child off the bed. Evidently my approximation of “calm” is convincing because he ends his breathing strike with a big gasp. “I caaaaaaaaaaaaaaa…” he starts again. “Maybe you should adjust your mindset to getting a home work slip.” I suggest, helpfully. If ...