“Sophie, don’t you have homework?”
My daughter is curled up on the couch, blanket tucked around her, book in hand, cozy and relaxed. She doesn’t want to hear about homework. But I ask the question knowing that she told her friends last night in the car that she had some homework in almost every class, and with the memory of her most recent math progress report in my mind. The progress report I had to sign, the progress report where her grade has dropped into a level she’s never been before.
“I don’t want to do it in the morning,” she says. “I’ll do it later.”
“When later?” I say. “During this afternoon’s show when you’ll be performing, or during the cast party where you’ll be eating pizza and dancing with your friends?”
The look I get after that question probably doesn’t need to be described if you’ve ever had contact with almost-teenage girls.
She shuffles into the dining room, which has always been designated as the homework central command center. She completes her math homework, shuffles back over to me with her planner in hand so I can see she’s done what she’s supposed to do. I quietly show her a few places where there’s an answer or number missing, and she quickly corrects it. She moves on to making Spanish flashcards.
This is not the most pleasant part of parenting, the part where you show them clearly that you are not their friend, that you are the mother drawing boundaries and establishing limits, not the mother singing along to Uptown Funk in the car or buying sparkly owl necklaces at Target. This is the mother who threatens to block your favorite websites, the mother who forces you to sit back down and persevere at your least favorite subject.
Get a head start, I say. Check your work, go over every detail. Email your teacher and ask when you can come see her. Show me your planner so we know what you need to do. What other subjects do you have? Check the calendar; do you have any projects due this week?
What I’m really saying: I love you so much I’m willing to make you unhappy with me to help you learn these bigger lessons, ones that will stay with you long past order of operations and the friar’s speech. Someday, I won’t be able to stand right by your side and guide you, so these precious days that I have now will have to be enough.