“I’m not good at anything,” says the boy who knows more about Greek mythology at 10 years old than I did after co-writing a Greek Myth Rap in 8th grade. “I don’t understand anything,” says my boy, who thinks more deeply about life, language, relationships, and religion than any 5th grader I know—actually more than most adults I know. “Like why is the word ‘there’ used to mean ‘there’ and ‘jacket’ used to mean ‘jacket’? Who thought up of that? And how did someone make a car?” That’s the conversation I entertain in a 25-minute drive tonight only after tending to tears related to a tough day at school. Needless to say, the 10-year-old’s mom is exhausted from the philosophical existentialism that exists in my everyday life right now, along with a side of school-based frustration. But I can handle it. What is a bit more difficult to handle is how one bad ending to his day at school set him off for hours. We’re currently on hour four of intermittent tears, procrastination, and hands-in-his-hair exasperated sobs.
“What happened?” you may be wondering. Was he bullied at school? Did someone wreck his “tadpole to frog” diorama? Did someone punch him in the throat today? Oh no, no… Nothing that major (to people with coping skills). Long division happened. FOUR PROBLEMS of long division. Four problems of long division assigned to a child whose mom spent a significant amount of time teaching LONG DIVISION to children with hearing and vision loss, as well as intellectual disabilities! I’m certain I could help him with those FOUR PROBLEMS! He could have finished quadruple the amount of problems in half the time if he’d just have done them instead of crying about doing them! However, I’ve learned from the years of working pro bono as a parent that talking to him, forcing him to focus, providing help, or just offering advice on how to calm down is met with a river of “No…” longer than the Mississippi. “No, that doesn’t work for me!” “No, I can’t do it!” “NO YOU ARE NOT THE FATHER!” And stupid me; when he said, “I wish you could help me but you’re too busy making lunches.”
I responded with, “I would be happy to help you. Maybe instead of being full of self-pity, you could just ask for help.” I admit that this was dumb. I cannot pull my passive aggressive teacher-crap with him when he’s like this. I KNOW THIS. But I can’t help myself from trying to teach him not to be passive aggressive by being passive aggressive.
Naturally, his response was first, “NO, that’s not self-pity,” followed by an attempt to suck me into an argument vacuum, then a dramatic exit to his bedroom to sit IN HIS CLOSET (in a room with a sweet little enclosed reading nook equipped with a cushion and light) where he tried to persuade me to come to his side of believing that he, indeed, actually cannot do long division or any other thing every taught in his lifetime.
My husband gave up awhile ago, which is honestly best for all of us. I am avoiding by writing this while the homework waits until tomorrow, an email to the teacher waits in her inbox, and a bottle of wine waits in our refrigerator.