English/science homework? OK, anything but math!

Are We There Yet? • LORI CLINCH

Iawoke this morning feeling like I was seasick. My eyes were fuzzy, my stomach was queasy and I was pretty sure that I was suffering from general malaise.

I’ve overindulged in the children’s math homework before, and while I should have known better, I couldn’t just sit by while our youngest child attempted to divide a seven-digit number and leave himself with a happy remainder.

Still, I firmly contend that there is very little in the world that is more disheartening than when one’s child plunks a 50- pound math book down on the table and inquires, “How’s your arithmetic?” as they belly up to the table for a rousing night of long division.

I’m more of an English and science person myself. If the kids need help with speeches, term papers or a metabolic breakdown, I’m nothing short of the bomb-diggity. I’m there for outlines, dissertations, and if I can’t re-create a replica of the cell cycle complete with the sequential phases of mitosis, then I don’t know who can.

Whenever there’s a manifesto on the horizon, I’m the gal. On the other hand, it’s a well-known fact about the Clinch abode that when it comes to the good old world of numbers that it’s best to seek out dear old dad.

Unfortunately, for Little Charlie, dear old dad was otherwise disposed last night; dispatched to parts unknown where he could bask in his mathematical knowledge without interruption. More than likely, he was dividing boards into sections and computing like clockwork. That left just Charlie and me and a 20-problem worksheet that made one want to pop an ibuprofen and dig into the chocolate stash.

It wasn’t the first time that I sat at the helm of the mathematical boat and I have to say, it’s never made me a happy sailor.

First, there was our Vernon, who handled his disputes with math in a lawyerly fashion, “Could we state for the record exactly when and where an individual would need to know the least common denominator of this fraction at any point in his future? And, if it pleases the court, is there any evidence to back up this claim?”

Then there was Huey, our would-be-apriest child, who prayed for a way to get out of his math work. Sometimes he’d fast, other times he’d light a candle and when he couldn’t get the cat to lay still on the sacrificial altar, he’d give up and simply state, “I don’t think that God really cares if I know how to split an integer.”

Lest we not forget Lawrence, who is just like the average man. He’s a no-nonsense kind of kid who rather than grumble or complain, simply goes to the task-athand. No sense in wasting time pussy-footing around a task when one can address an assignment as best he can before he pushes his unwanted task at the woman of the house and says, “I’m going to let you do this for me. You can do this much better

than I.”

And now there is Little Charlie who would do his long division all by himself if it weren’t for one simple reason — he doesn’t want to.

I took a look at the worksheet and realized two things. The first of which is that long division is not as much fun as it sounds and, secondly, the man who invented the calculator should have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

I figured I’d go back to the beginning of the chapter and relearn my way up to page 232. But the beginning of the chapter made less sense to me than the middle, and page 231 was written for folks who laugh at trigonometry and perhaps overindulge in homespun formulas now and then.

Although long division isn’t anything more than a little multiplication, subtracting and living it up by bringing down the next number of the dividend, I was only two steps into my divisor before I wanted to seek out a lifeboat and start singing the first stanza of “Nearer My God to Thee.”

Somehow we made it through and although I have a headache and am a little seasick from the arithmetic, I can’t wait for Charlie to come home so I can see what sort of marks we earned.

Yet, I tell you this, if that kid brings home anything that involves a divisor tonight, he’ll be navigating those rough waters alone.

Lori Clinch is the mother of four sons and the author of the book “Are We There Yet?” You can reach her at www.loriclinch. com.