I actually said it today, the thing I’d been thinking. I said, “I think the two of you would be better off if I weren’t even here.” I know I shouldn’t have said it, but I did. It was a bad moment, a bad day.
I was upset about homework. No, I don’t have homework, if that’s what you’re thinking. I spent a lot of energy this week coaxing, planning, and, yes, even nagging Nick to get his homework done. He’s in sixth grade. Homework is getting more intense. I could see how he could finish the two projects along with his normal workload, I told him, if he stuck to a schedule and kept at it. Nick argued. I argued that he didn’t have time to argue, that all the kids had the same work and I hadn’t assigned it. He procrastinated. I pushed him to stick with a schedule. He spilled water on his desk, nearly on his computer, and I cleaned it up. He pushed. I pushed back. It was exhausting.
Today, I found his vocabulary packet and a completed page of math on the dining room table. He’d finished the work, but didn’t remember to turn it in. I cried. Yesterday was the end of the quarter. He wasn’t going to get credit for this work at all, even if he does turn it in on Monday.
“I’m so tired of nagging you to do your homework, Nick,” I said.
“But Mom, I need you to nag me so I’ll remember,” he said.
“I feel as though I’m in one of those awful group projects in school all over again. You know the ones I mean. The other kids always wanted to be in my group. I was a good student. I worked hard, got good grades, and everybody knew it. I hated those group projects because I was the only one who ever did any work for them and then I never got a good grade because I couldn’t keep up with the work that three or four kids could actually do if they were all doing something.”
Nick and Mike just sat there and stared at me the way those kids in my group used to do.
It made me cry all over again.
It isn’t just that I was a good student. I also liked learning new things. I still do. I love art. I love reading. I like watching movies and get drawn into them, but mostly, television annoys me. It’s the inane commercials. I gave up trying to watch ‘You’ve Got Mail’ the other night because the network couldn’t even let me get through a scene before they jammed another round of commercials into my brain. I was given four minutes of a scene and then had to wait ten for the show to come back on. So, here I have a boy who hates to read, loves television, and could care less about being a good student. He gets a bit curious when he isn’t pushed at school. He likes history. He likes listening to stories, so Mike and I still read to him. Mostly, he’s the exact opposite of me when it comes to interests and grades. The only reason he has for looking at my art books is to see nudity in them.
I ask you – How could I have conceived a boy who is so entirely different from me? How am I supposed to help him manage his problems when I so totally don’t understand them? I read for fun when I was his age. I read to escape my miserable life. Reading seems to make Nick’s life miserable. The worst part is that Nick’s like me in temperament. What we have in common is drama, temper, and sensitivity. Oh, it’s a bad combination and I think I really meant it that maybe they’d be better off without me, that Mike’s patient nature would take over where my volatile one leaves off. These two people are so tight that I feel excluded when we’re all at home together. Mike likes television and video games too. I can’t even walk forward, look around, and shoot all at the same time when I try to play a game with Nick. When Mike tells Nick to do something, he does it. When I tell him, he ignores me until I repeat myself five times, then yell at him. I hate it. I try to punish him by taking away television and video games, but Mike will then come home from work and click the damn thing on and the whole thing goes out the window. In the end, I feel as though I’m punishing Mike whenever that’s the sentence I hand down to Nick for infractions.
“Maybe I need to go somewhere for a couple of days, let you two manage things on your own. Nick, no one will nag you to read or to brush your teeth or to shower. No one will care if you play video games for sixteen hours. No one will care if you get any exercise or eat junk food or go to bed late. No one will worry that you didn’t do your homework. Getting good grades won’t matter either.”
“But Mom, you’re the glue that holds us together,” Nick said.
It’s exhausting being the glue.
Thank you for listening, jules