Just for A Passion 4 Parenting, Rebecca has composed a humorous family essay about her own family life that I wanted to share with you! Here it is: Enjoy!
Homework and the Child Abuse Hotline
By Rebecca H. Jamison
My son, Owen*, wasn’t much for doing homework. Every afternoon after school, I’d sit with him, coaching him through the hour-long ordeal. I tried setting timers, giving rewards, and withholding privileges. Nothing seemed to help, but I stuck with it. For three long years—from first through third grade—Owen completed every homework assignment.
I knew Owen was smart enough to do the work on his own. What I didn’t know was that his mind was occupied in a much grander scheme—a way to get out of the homework hassle altogether. Everything clicked for him one fateful day when a police officer visited his school to talk about child abuse and said these magic words, “If an adult ever does anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, call the child abuse hotline.” He then handed Owen a little pamphlet with the hotline number.
That afternoon, Owen came home with a gleam in his eye and the pamphlet in his fist. When I asked him to sit down with me for homework time, he quoted the police officer, “Officer Murphy said that if you do anything that makes me feel uncomfortable, I should call the child abuse hotline.”
“He didn’t mean homework,” I responded.
“Officer Murphy said that if my parents did anything to make me feel uncomfortable, I should call,” Owen said. “The way you force me to do my homework makes me uncomfortable.”
This tactic wouldn’t have worked on most parents, but Owen knew my shameful history. I had already been accused of abusing him. It all had to do with his sister drawing a fake purple birthmark on his bottom (because, you know, every child should have a birthmark.) Someone thought the “birthmark” was a bruise and called child protective services. The officer had cleared me immediately, but I still lived in fear of another report.
So we had a long, psychology-based discussion about how my son felt about homework. I concluded that maybe I was being too hard on him. “Okay,” I said. “I’ll try to be nicer about it.” Because of our long discussion, my son got very little homework done that day.
The next day went about the same. My son wanted to discuss how homework made him so uncomfortable, and I found myself wishing there was some sort of parent-abuse hotline I could call to report Officer Murphy.
A week later, I still hadn’t convinced Owen that making him do his homework was simply good parenting, not abuse. “You know what, Owen,” I said, going out on a limb. “Why don’t you call the child abuse hotline and ask them whether making you do your homework is abusive?”
Owen’s eyes grew wide. “I lost the number.”
Without much effort, I found the pamphlet in a drawer. “It’s right here. Just call and ask them whether making you do homework is abusive. I really want to know.”
I handed him the pamphlet. He didn’t move.
“Here,” I said, picking up the phone for him. “I’ll dial for you.”
Before I got three numbers punched in, my son grabbed the phone from me. “Don’t make me call them, Mom.”
I paused, watching my son. Trying to be as sensitive as possible, I asked, “You mean calling the child abuse hotline makes you feel . . .uncomfortable?”
“Yes,” he answered.
“Well,” I responded, “I wouldn’t want you to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.” I hung up the phone. “Get to work on your homework.”
Owen sat down, pencil in hand, and did his homework without argument. Thanks to Officer Murphy, I’d found a solution to the homework dilemma.
*Name changed to protect the not-so-innocent.