Sundays. Homework - Aaaaaaargh!!! I had my breezy homework voice at the ready today: ‘Alfie, can you get your homework out, please?’ He clutched his head with his hands. ‘OH NO NO NO!’ and threw himself headlong onto the kitchen floor where he remained. ‘Get your bag please.’ I was terse. He didn’t move. ‘Bag Alfie!’ ‘I can’t reach it…oh.. oh..’
Eventually stage one was complete; he got the bag, and I took out the homework out (it’s only fair). We were delighted to find THREE pieces of homework for Alfie to immerse himself in. If he needed a little help, all the better, I could find out what he was up to at school: fantastic!
First up, spellings (heavy phonetic slant (funetick slarnt), but we have to choose our battles). Next, oh joy, make sentences out of them! What with a) thinking-and-coming-up-with-nothing b) writing Mummy’s ‘suggestion’ and c) rubbing it out and then writing it in English (including an interval for throwing it across the room), I was more than happy to let Alfie knock out one long and meaningless sentence with all twenty spellings in it, and if the teacher didn't like it, they could see me outside.
Maddy was slumped in her dressing gown (it was only noon) snipping pancake into one centimetre squares, arranging them in patterns on her plate, sprinkling teensy bits of sugar onto each one, then selecting one at a time to pop into her mouth, an activity designed to make breakfast last until steam came out of my ears, there being no escape from homework today. She’d spent most of the previous day loosely ‘doing her art’, resulting in one single (but very nice) pencil line, several back-episodes of Ugly Betty (‘I’ve got to catch up’), some internet purchases (‘You want me to get Daddy a birthday present, don’t you?’), and a chocolate cake (wholesome activity, wrong time). ‘Maddy, can you finish your art now?’ I ground my teeth. ‘Oh, I rubbed it out’ she said dreamily, ‘I didn’t like it.’ ‘WHAT??? That was a whole day's work!! Well get on with something else, come on! Just tell me if you’re stuck..’ So she called me after a bit: ‘If you mix hydrochloric acid and zinc hydroxide, what do you get?’ ‘Well, let me see..’ I said, ‘Er, hold on..zinc hydroxide..is that..um..I’m sure we can um..have you got a book…?’ but her phone was jingling, and took priority of course, so I returned my attention to Alfie.
The slow, even breaths and closed eyes told me that he was keen to begin his ‘research’ task; ‘find and draw a ‘Sedar Plate’’. ‘Look it up in a book first’ I said (‘We’re not allowed to, my teacher said we had to use the internet’). I dragged him over to Alan’s awful Childrens’ Encyclopedia Brittanica 1952 edition, stacked for easy access behind the old videos. ‘Use the index!’ I chirruped. He half-heartedly nudged at the pages with one hand so he could still suck his thumb. ‘It’s too heavy, it hurts..’ he whined ‘Alfie, make an effort – use two hands you silly boy!’.
I cut my losses and skimmed the Very Lengthy History of Judaism Not Including Sedar Plates while he groaned on the floor (‘Why can’t I use the computer like everyone else?’), interest levels slipping sub-zero, then I rocketed up the stairs to fetch our fancy new ‘Wow’ picture encyclopedia: ‘Ssssssssssssssedar – what letter do you think it starts with….?’ I reminded him how the alphabet went and he managed to find the S’s, when suddenly my heart skipped a beat because there, in the index, was ‘Sedar Plate’ as clear as day! He turned up the colour photo of it, annotated, and I could hold back no more: ‘IT’S THERE! IT’S THERE IN THE BOOK! WE’VE FOUND IT!’ I yelled, hysterical, tearful. Josie came running ‘What’s the matter? What happened?’ ‘Shall we photocopy it?’ shouted Alfie, riding on my brilliant mood. ‘No, your teacher is definitely going to want a drawing of this lovely photo, labelled by hand!’ I said, and galloped off to fetch pen and paper. ‘Take it easy, Mummy’ he said, ‘you need a rest from all this homework!