Friday, February 11, 2011

Patience is a Mother.....virtue...

I birthed my children late in life. There are both advantages and disadvantages to this phenomenon. I have more patience than when I was 20 or 25 years old. I fear that I would have smacked my 6 year old back into the birth canal at the age of 18, having to help him through this simple math, which he has done three nights a week. "Repetition only works if you work it." I tell him this as if he is in a 12 step program.

Tonight I am feeling slightly under the weather, which cuts my patience by 1/4 and tolerance by 1/2. I pull out my Dad's old leather belt and sit it between us. Elijah looks at it, because he knows I never do this unless I am going to use it. I reserve that decision for times when you may have mortally injured yourself or someone else with your actions. Tonight, I am the 'someone else.'
(Pause for station identification: I am a terrible disciplinarian, but I do believe that it is my responsibility to whip my child's behind if he/she puts himself or herself into danger or someone else, and/or revolts against authority. If I don't do it the world will when he/she reaches just about 16 years of age. Call whatever services you want. Unpause.)
Sitting at the table next to my 6 year old, doing basic math. I am struggling with the onset of a cold and winter fatigue, enduring the caterwauling of a pre-teen singer pretend auditioning for American Idol, and a one sided migraine. However, my biggest struggle at this moment is math with Elijah.

"Elijah" I say, "If you have 8 and you gain zero, how many do you have?"
"Uhmmmm," says the spider to the fly, "zero".

Breathe. Rethink. Go again.

"Okay, Elijah", I say, "If you have 8 cookies and I give you no more, how many do you have?"
"uhhhhhh...8" he says and writes down the number in the appropriate square.
One down.

"Okay, let's use our fingers. If you have 3 and you add 2 more, how many do you have?"

My mostly hyper son, well on his way to mathematical genius, screws up his fingers and his face and does this weird bending thing of several fingers and says:
"7"
"Elijah." I say "How many fingers do you have up?"
"5"
Silent prayer to Jesus who helps mother with math and 6 year old. Come now.
"Soooo...start again. Put up 3 fingers."
"Oneeeee, Twoo....Three," he chants as he puts up his double jointed fingers in freaky contortions.
"Now, add two more."
More chanting "Onnnneee. Two."
"Now count them all together." This is me thinking how easy this is, right?
"Onnneeee...Twooo...Thr...wait....Oneee...Twoo...Threee...Four....Five. Five." Happy writing in the appropriate box is underway again. I look to check the box.
"Elijah, what is that?"
"The number 5," with exasperation at my idiocy.
"Why is it backward?"
"Oh" Erase. Erase. Erase some more. Thought. Intense Thought. Finally.....a written 5.
Jesus who helps mother with math and 6 year old, be a fence.
At this point we have only solved two problems. There are 10 more on the page, and the opposite side to complete. I am thinking that I may take up drinking as a result of motherhood. Elijah is thinking, "Bobbi is watching American Idol tryouts and laughing. I am going to miss them all." I know because he tells me this as he whines and slides down the seat half way into question number 3.

Elijah likes math. He does not like it when he doesn't want to do it. That is when we start writing numbers backwards, counting to 8 on one hand like we are a Martian child with extra digits, and yawning repeatedly. Tonight is that night.

In my youth, I would have snatched this child up and done some major irreparable damage. God knew. That is why he withheld children from me until He himself could endow me with some sense and clarity. I had a little talk with myself.

Self, I said, look at this child. You will be sitting here forever if you don't find a way to help him catch on. Think outside of the box. Be creative. Do not envision yourself standing said child in the middle of the room with hands outstretched for an hour counting from 1 to 10.

"Elijah", I say "go get your cars." He runs to get his collection of matchbox cars. "Count out 10 cars". Oh, happy happy, joy joy. He starts counting, and playing, because he is distracted from math homework and thinks it is all over.

Not so.

"Okay, what is the next question on your math homework? 6+2. Count out 6 cars. Now count out 2 cars. Put those all together and count them. How many do you have? Write it in the box."

"Now do the rest of your problems the same way."

"Okay, mom." says excited 6 year old, fingering most important and prized possession cars, "I can do it with my cars."

Oh happy happy, joy joy. I think. I lay back down on the sofa.

Until he gets to the word problems on the backside of his math homework. Really. Word problems. In the 1st grade.

Dear Jesus who helps mother with math and 6 year old. Come now.

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