The lights are on at the breakfast table and the dining table. I walk, swinging my arms, hoping my iWatch will count the strides toward exercise minutes. Laddu ambles behind me clicking her flashlight on and off to illuminate what she considers dark corners of the house.
Ammu is bent over her homework, way past her bedtime. Pattu is also hard at work, holding out her fingers, eyes squinting as she figures out 9 times 4. Her lettering gets progressively worse as time marches on. The fatigue is telling.
I am tempted to wrap everything up, march them upstairs, kiss and hug them before I tuck them in bed. Instead, I wait for them to give up and declare their brain is fried. Pattu finishes first. I instruct her to go tuck herself in. She walks upstairs and Laddu follows reluctantly. Ten minutes pass and Ammu pushes her paper with a flourish. I notice glaring errors in spelling in what is supposed to be a spelling recap worksheet. I silently tuck the papers in her bag while she fusses with her toys.
I gather her in a squeezy hug telling her how proud I am of her, for persisting, for finishing her work. Her face brightens. She kisses me and we walk up. I am relieved when the kids are in bed.
The house is too quiet. I tidy up the tables, fill water bottles and leave the sink clear for the morning. I am thinking about my school years. The mountain of homework we tackled each evening. The brazenness with which I would walk with unfinished work and get sent outside the class. I remember the caning on my calf muscles. I also remember how little my parents asked me about school work. The long days, the mind-numbing process of memorizing passages, the lack of interest I had in anything STEM. It all feels like a bad dream now.
Today my children reached school early for chorus practice. They stayed late to play soccer. They came home, showered and sat to work. For hours they stared at a single sheet of Math homework, simple division problems that expected them to know their multiplication facts. I urged them to use the chart at the back of their planner if it would help them. They doodled, played with toys, fidgeted, walked around and did everything but their work.
We had dinner and then I sat with each girl, taking turns, silently pointing at each problem. They worked quickly, my finger a focal point around which they rallied. Math done, they pulled out spelling worksheets. Five pages of repeating words, identifying misspellings and reviewing words from the previous week.
There was still science work left. A bag of seeds resting on moist paper tissue, for the seeds to sprout. The kids were expected to observe and record observations over a few days. The seeds were taking their time. I asked them to put the science sheets away and emailed their teacher asking for respite, an extension so they could actually benefit from watching the seeds grow.
They are in bed now. I realize this is just the beginning. With each passing week, the things they are expected to know and use incrementally will grow. I feel profound sadness. The kind that comes from knowing I would rather have my children come home and shower and play. As much as I would love for my children to be geniuses, I realize the reality is that they will be cogs in the wheel. I wish there was a way for me to make what they learn fun and easy. I wish I could blink and they will already be in college and all of this will be a distant memory.