“I thought I was finished with homework,” said a mom at our bus stop. It was not the first time we stood there waiting for the bus bemoaning all the homework we parents have to do because our kids are too young or too cranky to do it themselves. The homework itself isn’t so difficult, but getting the kids to do it is pure torture. We try to implement new strategies that begin with carefully constructed conversation. "This is going to be super fun!" or "The sooner we finish the homework, the more time we'll have to play a game." But no matter what our intention, our sessions often escalate into screaming matches and tantrums on both sides of the table. I hate homework just as much as my kid does.
I’m sure there are parents who have no idea what I’m referencing. You might be that parent who responds, “As soon as Ann and Andy get home from school, I provide them with a healthy snack and then it’s on to the homework without delay. They finish it off rather quickly as it doesn’t seem to be much of a challenge, and sometimes they even try to teach each other what they’ve learned in their respective classes. Isn’t that adorable?” If you are that parent, I cannot look you in the eye without launching darts of envy and inferiority masked by pure hatred into your frontal lobe.
The latest project the kids (read parents) have to do involves collecting leaves of various shapes, identifying them and mounting them in a booklet. This would have been a very easy task had we been living in the suburb where I grew up. Our house was 10 minutes away from the Chicago Botanic Garden. We would have spent no more than an hour walking up and down the pathways collecting leaves from well-labeled trees (leaves that had already fallen from the tree on to the ground of course) and spending the rest of the day doing something actually fun.I know for a fact, I would have been able to find a Gingko tree leaf in no time.
“Go to the field and stop right before the street meets the park. You know where I mean? There is a cluster of trees about half way down the hill.” The mom at the bus stop moved her hands this way and that to make sure we could visualize where the one Gingko tree in our town is planted. “No, don’t do that,” advised another parent. “Just go to the Bank of America in the next town. There’s a Gingko tree right in front of the bank.” “And where am I supposed to find a mitten shaped leaf? Has anyone found one of those?” “Not yet. I guess we’ll spend the weekend in the reservation trolling for them.” Another mom piped up, “And then we’re going to laminate all the leaves so we can mount them neatly into our booklet.” I loaded my dart gun.
My friend pulled me aside and away from the bus stop cluster to speak privately. “I’m going to visit my mother in the Poconos this weekend, and there’s a Sassafras tree in front of her house. That’s the mitten shaped leaf. I’ll bring a leaf back for you. And if you text me on Saturday, I can get you whatever leaves you can’t find.” And then she gave me the “shh” sign with her forefinger in front of her mouth lest the other parents want to get in on the deal. I breathed a deep sigh of relief. I had found my leaf dealer.
The two of us lingered at the bus stop the following Monday and let the other parents make their way home. We pretended to be sorting out play dates for the younger boys, but actually, I was going to follow her to her house to collect. “Here, I got you two Sassafras leaves and I threw in a Yellow Poplar. That’s the cat face one. Let me get you a Ziploc bag so it doesn’t get all dried out and crumble before you can mount it.”
“Thanks so much,” I said and took hold of the Ziploc bag and inspected its contents. “It’s like I’m checking out my dime bag. Remember those?” “I wish this were a dime bag,” she said as she handed me my stash. We both laughed nervously as if to say, “Not really, but…maybe…but no…right?” “I used to know the origin of all the various types of weed, and now I know tree leaves,” one of us who shall not be identified said. I placed my leaf-bag gently in my Susan Nichole vegan backpack. I’m not vegan, but my bag is. I thought it apropos given the organic nature of this post.
Off I went to press the leaves in between the pages of Gabriella’s The Cook’s Book knowing that Asher’s project would be complete with or without his participation. There are still a few leaves he/we have yet to find. I figure we can do that together during the New Jersey Education Association Boondoggle - I mean Convention – that forces our children out of the school and into our houses for two days following 3 half days for parent-teacher conferences and 3 additional days off due to a bit of ice. Will they ever stay in school?!? Loading many darts.