by Bill Quateman
Homework. The great leveler. We all have it and have to do it, no one really wants to. Even when we’re out of school,
there’s homework of some kind that must be done. Whether it’s cleaning up, helping with a meal, a party, a brother, a sister, a
friend, grandparent, relative, plant or pet. What we do daily, at some point or other around the house, is homework.
We can take the word home off and we’re left with the real issue, work. The dirty four-letter word that we all avoid
saying or doing, as best we can. We don’t want to do work, we want to ride or, let it slide.
Truth is, around our neighborhood, we’re addressing the issue, head on. For my son, Dylan, the on-going directions, now that
he’s 15 and in his sophomore year in high school are, Make yourself do the work in front of you, every day. We’re keeping it
simple by then asking, What could happen if you did? and What will happen if you don’t?
Asking questions is far scarier to him than a lecture. And far more effective.
Well, if we make ourselves do the work, to the best of our abilities, every day and ask for help, immediately, when we need
it and then, make ourselves do the work, we will find, (how did this happen, magic?) we’ll do well.
If we don’t do this, we’ll fall behind. At anything.
All of this sounds great but we all know that when learning’s fun, we learn better and we learn more.
That’s where the group can come in. At least as one of the ways to teach these ideas. More than anything, our kids crave our
attention. They also know misery loves company.
Dylan needed help with his homework. It was the end of the school year (it really doesn’t matter when in the school year it ever
is, this can work), and we had gathered at our house for my daughter India’s birthday dinner. She was turning 7, her grandmother
was in town visiting, her mom was very pregnant with a baby with her new husband, it was India’s and my son Dylan’s night with
me in our child caring schedule. Lucille, my oldest daughter, also came to celebrate. She is my former wife’s daughter, from her
previous marriage. I started parenting her when she was 2 and what I say is, she’s as much my daughter as anybody’s.
Since I had the relatively free hand, I invited everybody over to our house for a BBQ, a little goofing and a cake.
One activity can easily lead to others. We decided to eat in the backyard and that meant bringing the food, utensils and plates
from the house, which India, good kid and maid of honor that she was, helped with, eagerly.
It was at this point, while I prepared the food and the fire, that Dylan announced he needed help with his project. I told
him we were in the middle of getting dinner and the little party going, but if he brought his work out to the backyard, we could
talk about it as we went.
Scott, India’s mom’s new husband had just arrived. He hadn’t thought he could make it, but his schedule had changed and he’d
decided to take the invitation I’d offered earlier in the day to join us.
People want to be helpful. Mostly, they just need to be asked in the right way. I knew from some previous gatherings, that
Scott, understandably, liked to man the barbecue. It gave him something to do in the midst of people he was just getting to
know, which included me, my son and India, his now step-daughter. As Dylan asked for aid with his homework, I told him to ask
Scott if he could lend a hand, which he was glad to do.
So I looked around at our backyard scenario.
One child, turning 7 years old, was hostessing her own party and with a light skip and ballet, bringing plates and napkins
and plastic forks, to set up on a little table that was too small for all of it; available lawn and kitchen chairs were
assembled and the surviving redwood bench, left over from the redwood picnic table and bench set that had long since
disintegrated, was poised to hold the food; India’s mom was doing all she could to even sit, she was so pregnant, while her
mother sat next to her, enjoying the patchwork gaiety; Lucille was waiting to be served dinner and Scott, India’s step dad, was
sitting on a mini-chair, left over from one of the kid’s play sets, helping Dylan, my son, with his project.
This seemed and was, so appropriate; different parts of different families, yet the same, coming together for the kids and
doing something good for themselves.
And, we were all doing the unmentionable: homework.