The last post for this month has to be centred on my children. At least I would have kept 75% of my intention to write only about them in the month of May.
That’s not a bad score now, is it?
So here goes.
Doing homework with the children has never been a time I look forward to and this feeling only developed recently. Say, a year after Chairman started going to school.
Initially with just T, it was manageable. I just went through the motions and indulged some of her excesses (like pointing out her teacher’s way of doing things as opposed to my own way). Having two of them doing homework , most times at the same time, is pure drudgery and I have to grin (sometimes, bite my lip, keep my anger in check) and bear it. I did say I wanted children, didn’t I? Well, mummy, children and homework go together. Deal with it!
That’s exactly what I do every week day for about an hour and a half or more. Dealing with T’s increasing wisdom as she grows older (as she emphatically still insists on her teacher’s method and make me look quite silly and unschooled) and more confident of herself. The upside to this is that I can refrain from supervising her every pencil stroke and know that, at the end, she’d have done the right thing with little or no errors. Chairman, on the other side of the writing table, is in a class of his own. Depending on his mood that day or week, churning out a drama – free homework could take as long as four hours or 30 minutes. Sometimes, it doesn’t get completed. So everyday, just before homework time, I pray he is in a good, academic, show – off state of mind.
On Thursday last week, something totally unrelated to moods and methods looked like it was sent to make this time drag even longer than I would have liked.
There was no eraser. For some reason, the five erasers were missing from the two pencils cases where they normally occupied with other stationery.
Not today. No eraser. Not even a tiny piece of one.
I decided to be positive about it. I’m sure the children would cope without it, I thought. After all, they mimicked homework and hardly ever used erasers then.
Clearing my throat like I was about to bestow bad news, I told T and her brother beforehand that they were going to complete their homework without the art of erasing — something they loved to do and did so well.
They were to be extra careful.
No unnecessary mistakes.
No superfluous writing.
Be certain of the right answers before writing them down. That way they’d both have error – free, no smudge- ridden books and flawless homework at the end. They seemed to understand and nodded accordingly at my words. Good.
I started with Chairman. One part of his homework asked that he replicated the numbers 36 – 40 about 10 times each in individual boxes.
“Write number 36 here…,” I pointed. “…to here.”
He was making to follow my directions when I switched over to his sister, T. I couldn’t have spent more than five minutes with her before turning back to check on him. He had written the number 36 all right in about four boxes, then proceeded to draw several unequal, uneven lines across the other boxes and half way down the page, messing up his work in the process.
Then he looks me eyeball to eyeball and says: ” Mummy, give me the eraser please.”
I had no words. I just handed over both pencil cases to him and continued supervising T. If he was in the no – homework mood, I was not going to fuel it with my words.
“Mummy, there’s no eraser.” His tiny clear voice stated the obvious.
I turned to him again. “But didn’t I tell you there was no eraser and that you should be careful?” My voice was surprisingly calm.
“I want eraser, please.” He continued like I had said nothing.
I bit my lip. What to do? What to say? I took a deep breath and sat down next to him. “There isn’t any eraser, my dear. They are all lost.”
“I want eraser.” He repeated in a now whiny voice.
“I’ll get new ones tomorrow morning after dropping you off at school. Then you’ll have lots and lots of erasers, OK?”
He nodded. “OK.”
“So continue with your homework and be very, very careful this time. No mistakes.”
“OK.” Silence, then. “Mummy, I want to erase this.” Pointing at the many strokes he made.
“There’s no eraser.”
“What am to do?”
I don’t bother to correct him. “Take the book to school like that tomorrow and show Mr. Kaseem (his teacher) the mess you made.”
He starts pseudo – crying at the mention of his teacher’s name. “No, no, eraser, eraser.”
Homework time just took a turn for the worse. With all the necessary stationery, this was a task I’d rather not participate in. Why did I ever think it would be smooth sailing (writing/learning) in the absence of one??? Hello, homework from hell.
I looked at T who beamed at me and spoke. “Eraser, please.”
What the heck?! “There’s no eraser!” I almost yelled at her.
Her expression changed and I felt immediate remorse. “T, there’s no eraser.” My voice sort of gentle now , and almost rising again when she showed me a dark, untidy smudge on her handwriting book. She had made a mistake, then tried unsuccessfully to write over it before giving up.
Chairman was still pretend – crying while punctuating it with “eraser/I want eraser”.
How did I get here? I asked myself. By trying to have educated, enlightened, exposed offspring — something most Nigerian parents want of their children. A legacy that was almost making me climb walls! And an eraser was behind it all!
I got up and went on a frantic, extensive, wild, untidy, crashing, ruffling, loud – banging, eraser search.
Nothing was spared. Drawers. Wardrobes. Cupboards. Toy containers. Bookshelves. In between papers, pillows. Even the cereals and medicine areas felt my search wrath. I wasn’t backing down until I found what I was looking for.
I was on the verge of slamming shut the last drawer when…what was that in the corner? Partially covered by bits, cards, papers and pieces?
Heavens be praised! An eraser attached to a yellow pencil! I couldn’t remember the last time I saw one of those. The children have a knack for pulling them out and abandoning them when they got bored. Today, it had come to our rescue; a guaranty for clean books and calm nerves.
By the time we were done with every piece of homework, I had resolved to:
- by a trailer load of erasers (stand alone and those attached to pencils) and place them in every available, reachable space I can find.
- never, ever take the eraser for granted, little as it is, lest its absence shows just how important it is to my piece of mind, smooth flow of work and life, and the passage of time.