The Challenge: Take the first line “I have to do something to help that child” and write a story.
“I have to do something to help that child,” she whispers.
I lean closer, rest my palm on her leg to hold her still. “Absolutely not.” I try to hit her with my best I-mean-business glare, eyes narrowed and lips pursed. The look I used to get from my High School English teacher when I talked out of turn. “You do nothing.”
I feel her relax, slightly. Her weight shifts back toward her rump. “Fine. Whatever.”
Across the room, the child scribbles something and sighs. The sound is too loud, too dramatic, for the situation. We both turn our attention to her, watching. She throws both her hands up, sandwiching her face between them and sighs again. “I don’t know how to do this,” she whines.
Again my partner’s weight shifts. “Let me just go see if she’s made–”
“No. Just let her struggle. Watch, wait.” The truth is, I don’t know if this plan will work or not. All I know if we have fought with this child about her homework every single day for the last month. There have been tears from both parties. There have been assignments that I know were not successfully completed. There have been assignments that we gave up on. This week I have convinced my wife to let me handle homework in a different way. This week I decided to let her fend for herself, our eight year old, and see what comes of it. It’s Wednesday We made it through Monday easily. We made it through Tuesday with only a little bit of struggle. Now the real battle has kicked in. It’s the paragraph that did it, I think. I keep hearing my little girl whine about “five whole sentences” and I’m sure that’s the part that’s done her in. Of course it would be easier to “suggest” ways to write the sentence, but then we end up with the fighting and the tears. No, this is the way this week. She will get through it. “We have to let her do this.” I say the last thought out loud, sharing it, willing it to be true.
At the table, the pencil is pinched between the fingers again. The tongue finds its home at the corner of the mouth, slowly wiggling along the upper lip as the words begin to form on the page in front of her. There’s writing for a full minute before the pencil is flung back down. “DONE!” she bellows.
“Do we check it?” my wife asks.
“Do you have enough sentences?” I call.
“Yes.” Not even a glance down at the paper.
Pause, looking at the paper. “Five.”
“Good job. Did you answer the question?” I ask.
A whisper from my elbow, “She could be lying.”
I shrug. “Are you lying?”
Her little blonde hair goes flying as she whips her head around to shoot me with a glare that perfectly communicates her irritation with my doubt. “No. It’s good. Do you wanna read it?”
I smile. “Nope. I trust you. Put it in your backpack and go wash up for dinner.”
I wait until she has disappeared around the corner before smiling at my wife. “There, done.” I kiss her gently on the lips. “And no one cried.”
Her lips tip up to the right, her I’m-still-not-admitting-defeat smirk. “It’s only Wednesday, bub.”
“Just admit it, I’m right. This is working.”
She chuckles. “One, we haven’t seen the grade for homework this week. Two, that was painful to watch. Three, and most importantly,” she rises and heads for the kitchen, “we have two more nights of this and spelling sentences are tomorrow.”
She flicks her hair over her shoulder as I feel my confidence drop like a concrete brick in the water. “Oh God, spelling sentences,” I whine.
Homework is going to be the death of me.