younggirl_atschool_writing_pencilOne of the many unpleasant things you aren’t warned about before having kids—like that throwing up and having bowel movements during labour is normal and that your vagina will never forgive you—is that kids come with homework.

Not only the “homework” you did prior to having them, the wills, powers of attorney and adoption paperwork you put into place to avoid emotional disaster in the unpredictable future or the parenting books you read feverishly in the months both before and after having them. But literally homework.

You’re on the homework treadmill alongside your kid from kindergarten on, like it or not.

I don’t. Wasn’t that the joy of graduating from college—no more homework? And now, just because I have a six-year-old in first grade, I’m supposed to go back to word lists, busy work and shoebox dioramas?

This part of parenting was a surprise to me when our first kid hit five. My prior understanding was that the kid gets the homework and does the homework, end of the story. In my experience, parents had more important things to do than micromanage an education, like drinking highballs, earning a living wage or having a nervous breakdown. Those things take a bite out of the day.

Though my spouse tells me that her mother supervised homework (her mom not labouring for a living, drinking hard liquor or taking time off coaching softball to go postal) so this must not be a new thing.

The school starts your indoctrination by sending home games to play with your kindergartner involving cut-up pieces of paper you inevitably lose before the game is half done. With first grade, short, boring books arrive home so your kid can read them aloud five times each—something I managed to misunderstand for most of the first semester this year, and missed entirely with our first son, who didn’t read until second grade when Gameboy motivated him enough to give it a go.

In third grade it’s dioramas you help with, fourth grade the times’ tables (I recommend bribery), in fifth-grade punctuation is suddenly important and you become the in-house editor, and in sixth grade, they’re colouring maps and informing you how your education was biased and xenophobic and that you know nothing, but could you pick up a foam core board, six Sharpies and a map of Sweden on the way home?

I swear I love my kids, and I swear I want them well-educated, but if I have to do their homework for them I swear, so, since I think grade-schoolers with potty mouths are déclassé, my own priority has always been their scholastic independence. This meant that their dioramas weren’t works of art and that photocopied facts about native birds were often misaligned when affixed to the aforementioned foam core. But by golly, they earned that grade. Not me.

Not that I’m above giving the grade an occasional nudge. Why have a writer in the house if you can’t suggest some alternative wording in a report, yes, I edited our son’s college application essay, but on the whole, I’m happy to give homework a miss now that we have two educationally independent teens?

And a six-year-old who needs to read us those short, boring books five times a night, like it or not, now that I’m in the know.