Unlucky number thirteen

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Whatever they are paying grade school teachers, it is not enough. And I’m not just saying this in an effort to shamelessly suck up and get my kid prime seating at circle time, all the best, unbroken crayons, and dibs on frontsies in the lunch line. I’m way more subtle when I’m doing that.

All about sanity. Nope. This time it’s all about sanity and my growing sense that you can’t put a price on it. Then again, it could be argued that only the sadistically insane would choose grade school teaching in the first place.

Thus cleverly combining the heady combination of small children with poor impulse control and the need to zip and tie virtually everything on their adorable little persons multiple times each day. If that doesn’t break you, nothing will.

I have it on good authority that those impossible quadruple knots in your average grade schooler’s shoes – the ones that require surgical intervention and precision tools to undo at the end of a day – are no random occurrence.

Teacher revenge. This is teacher revenge. In fact, teachers attend special workshops throughout the school year just to learn this: “and then you loop it over and cinch it with the special winch you carry just for this instance – that’ll teach little Jimmy’s mom to send a 7-year-old who can’t tie his shoes to your class.”

I mention this to illustrate that I know things are tough for teachers. I had no idea, how tough, however, until my 6-year-old came home with his first real homework.

Not the kind that involves coloring, matching up happy and sad faces, or gluing macaroni to yarn, mind you. This was actual, real-live homework involving numbers and everything.

We started out with the best of intentions, our stack of freshly sharpened No. 2 pencils at the ready.

Where’s 13? It took no time at all to discover that not only does my otherwise bright child have no grasp of the fact that there is a number 13 strategically placed between the numbers 12 and “14″ – but that he really doesn’t care.

As a result, my husband and I spent the better part of the evening working diligently to convince this child – the same child who can instantly categorize all the characters in a “Yu-Gi-Oh” cartoon by their respective teams and secret weapons – that the number 13 wasn’t just a figment of our imaginations.

We ran down the long accepted line-up ad nauseam. “10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 – see how easy that is?

Only to be rewarded with our darling parroting back, with a confident grin no less, “10, 11, 12, 14, 15!”

He even went gleefully on up to 20 for good measure. This went on for hours. As the mathematical idiot in the family, I was willing to take the genetic hit for this one, but my darling spouse, head in hands, could only mutter “now I know why my father had us in tears every night growing up.”

What’s so hard? Homework is not for sissies. Now, please know that I love my child past the point of reason, but I will admit that I do not understand what is rocket science about memorizing that a) 13 exists, and b) it is always going to follow 12.

Yet I suspect that your average grade school teacher could handle this before lunch and still make nap time. They have ways. Clever ways.

Meanwhile, head pounding, teeth clenched, temper strained, I tried to imagine dealing with this day in and day out, and I felt a little faint. Then I quit.

Overrated. The number 13 is way overrated. No one will ever miss it. Fortunately, I have virtually no fear that the teacher will read this and think less of me for caving in the face of kindergarten homework.

She is undoubtedly slumped in a corner somewhere, rocking rhythmically back and forth, muttering incoherently “a circle and a line make number 9!” or something cheerful and clever in a monotone favored by the severely deranged.

Please pray for her. I caved after just one evening with one 6-year-old. My own no less. She routinely has to take on 23 of them. Or, as we now count it, 24.

Missing and lost. We have every reason to believe that the number 13 is missing and presumed lost.

(Kymberly Foster Seabolt is going to hire someone to come do homework with her children. She welcomes comments c/o kseabolt@epohi.com

or P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)

About the Author

Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless. More Stories by Kymberly Foster Seabolt

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