Several someones (11 and 12 year old someones) have told Aditi that 4th grade is simply too hard to handle. This most suggestible of children has decided to take it to heart. She is convinced that it’s going to be impossible for her to do as well as she did in 3rd grade. Have you tried un-convincing your child of something her peers have told her? In spite of doing fairly well in her assessments, these days Aditi walks about with a frown when discussing schoolwork or doing her homework. This is because she has already decided, 2 months into 4th grade, that she’s going to be an abysmal failure. She asked me yesterday if we could return to India, as school there was so much simpler! That should come as a shocker for all you people with children in Indian schools.
Bravely I wade into the mess, sure I can fix it all. “I’m going to help you understand things better”, I tell her. It’s been easy peasy lemon squeezy these past ten years. I cleaned, band aided and kissed a boo-boo here, untangled the mess from a weird hair styling session with friends there, helped clean up paint and play doh off the carpet and so on. Up until now I never really had to help Aditi with homework or study, except for a short period when she decided to resist learning Hindi while in India (that foray wasn’t so successful either considering my own glaring lack of Hindi skills). This was business on a whole different scale though.
First off, we can’t decide on the best place to work together. She wants to be at her desk with the radio on. Suddenly I turn into my Dad. “No distractions while studying” I say, as my Dad would, on the rare occasions he or my mother ever deigned to show interest in our academics. It was laissez-faire at chez Shetty and how we enjoyed it. But then, that’s a whole different story. Anyway, Aditi’s radio is set to some station that blares out the most inane, current pop music played at eardrum assaulting levels. It gives me a headache in 5 minutes flat. So we compromise. It’s going to be the little dining table in the breakfast room. I turn on the iPod to play some sublime Hindustani classical music but she starts complaining right away. “Would you prefer me to have a headache?” she asks with perfect pre-teen sarcasm. Off goes the iPod. Don’t want to disturb the little princess, do we? Oh no but we must have some music she says. Compromise #2. We switch it on to the classic rock playlist which we can both enjoy. We smile at each other as the Steve Miller Band rocks on. And there ends any semblance of mother-daughter understanding.
Everything that comes after that most resembles the shambles left behind by Alexander’s decimation of the Persians. In fifteen minutes we are at each other’s throats, One of us is screaming in frustration, the other is alternately weeping and being sarcastic. Every suggestion I make is met with a stony ‘that’s not how we do it in school”. Ok I’ll be the first to accept that I have no idea how it is done at her school. Still, there is a method to everything in science and math isn’t there? And me being such a History and Civics buff (and not such a dummy) surely I know the answers to most of these things. The thing I lack though is patience. I don’t envy schoolteachers who have to deal with about 25 of these creatures every hour of every school day. I think of all those children whom I spared when I decided not to do a certification course in elementary school teaching. I’d probably come home and commit a horrible bodily injury crime on my family if I had to deal with this all the time.
The upshot of trying to help Aditi with her schoolwork is that I turn into a screaming banshee and she into a sniveling, angry animal. It had to end didn’t it? We’ve decided to go our separate ways on this one. She’s muddling along all on her lonesome, trying to figure out the ‘awful’ 4th grade curriculum and I’ve decided I’d rather keep my sanity. So we give each other a smile as she sets off upstairs to her desk and her infernal radio while I stay downstairs serenely nodding along to Bhimsen Joshi, reading the book du jour.