I Need to Stop Helping My Kid With Homework — It's Driving Me Crazy

Two and a half years ago, when my oldest child started kindergarten, I assumed that elementary school would bring a lot of changes for our family — a more structured weekday schedule, a larger social network, greater independence for my child. What I did not anticipate was the homework. So much homework.

Long before she had adjusted to our daily 6:30 a.m. wake-up time and I had gotten comfortable loading my 5-year-old on a bus driven by a stranger, the homework started arriving. Because she hadn't yet mastered the main skill she'd eventually learn in kindergarten — how to read! — helping her complete those worksheets wasn't really optional. Plus, those assignments took about five minutes and were super basic — even for my kid — so there was no real reason for complaint (though, of course, I still did).

Two years, and thankfully, some acquired reading skills for my kid later, I'm still running point on my daughter's homework, and it's no longer quick or easy. In fact, it's a real pain in my ass. Sure, there's the crushing reality of having to relearn second-grade math because common core seems like it's designed to make me feel stupid. But my real problem is not the head-scratch-causing equations. It's my daughter, who seems totally unaware that those assignments that come home with her every day are her responsibility, not mine.

Patience has never been my greatest human skill, and nothing tests my limits like sitting next to my very intelligent child as she insists she can't remember what three plus four is, even though I know she's just screwing with me. "Would you act like this in school?" I ask as she rolls around on the floor, insisting that she can't possibly finish her homework without three more pieces of candy to fuel her. She'll admit that no, she'd never behave like this in the classroom, but it seems she can't stop herself from being her worst self around me.

That's why, lately, I've been trying to opt out of the homework game. She's smart, capable, and needs to learn self-motivation eventually, right? Why not start with today's reading-comprehension worksheet? I started small, still sitting with her while she did her homework, but concentrating instead on a magazine or my phone instead of her assignment. Unfortunately, my lack of effort was definitely noticed — and duplicated — by her.

Taking a more direct approach, I talked to her about how it was time she started taking charge of her own homework. I had long ago completed second grade; it was her turn to do the same. Amazingly, she seemed to take that in, and we had a couple of days of argument-free homework sessions. Then came last week's assignment: three blank, lined pages she was supposed to fill in about the historical figure of her choosing. The kicker was the cover page, which specifically instructed parents to help direct and edit the content. So much for being off the hook.

We spent four extremely fraught hours last weekend writing about the life and mysterious death of Amelia Earhart. I admired her choice, though I wished she would have picked someone whose name she could actually spell. Here's hoping that I'll — I mean, she'll — have less homework next year. I hear third grade math is a real killer.