The Grapes of Wrath

It’s 9 pm on a Monday night and as I am relaxing on the couch I hear these words “Dadddd, can you come here” from my 15 year old.  She’s been in her room doing homework for 15 minutes or so, homework I told her to start 3 hours ago, but she has her own way of doing things and I guess it was more important to watch The Office for those three hours in-between.  Since my wife and youngest were still at dance class I knew I would not be able to avoid whatever homework questions I was going to get.  So, as I walked into her room I made sure I had my phone ready to Google whatever I would need it.

I see she had her computer out so I knew this was going to be a paper she was writing and not a math problem I could secretly look up on my phone to help her out.  She starts out asking about the book she read and how she wanted to write about a certain character in it.  I had no idea who Ma Joad in The Grapes of Wrath was so I knew this was going to be difficult.  So, I started with my delay tactics.  I told her it wasn’t something I ever read so I would need to do a little work on it first.  I then told her I had to switch the laundry, do the dishes and go the bathroom.  I thought for sure what would happen is that in those few minutes she would find her voice.  She’s done that a few times where she asks me for help and by the time my dumb brain has anything to offer she already has her answers or the path she wants to go down.

But, this time I was not so lucky.  She could not get started on this essay.  So, I started to look a few things up, starting pretending it was me with the ideas, but she would say “Yeah Dad, I saw that article to.  I don’t want to use that.  It’s not what I am trying to say.”  She would start a sentence then erase it and get really frustrated.  I would think of something that was genius and she would shoot me down again.  She knew what she wanted to say, but could not find the words.  So, I kept giving her something new, kept feeding her ideas.  This wasn’t my first rodeo watching her write a paper.  I knew exactly what I was getting into so I stole a pillow and I laid down on her bedroom floor.  I watched her start and stop her essay about 50 times.  She would get all the way through a paragraph and she just could not find the last sentence she needed so she would delete it and start over.

I would try again to help.   I would mention how Ma Joad was a strong, powerful woman and how important she was to the family, which is what a few random articles on my phone told me.  She would tell me that what I was saying wasn’t helping her, that her ideas were just floating in her brain but she could not get them to her hands to type them out.  So, I did what I always do and I tried to tell her a few dumb jokes.  I’d mention how this essay should be easy because it was about feminism and she was the worlds biggest feminist.  She’d give me a courtesy laugh and then tell me I was being chauvinistic and that she really needed to work on this.

So, I settled in and watched her work.  I laid on that floor and just sat there.  I wasn’t looking at my phone because I knew at any moment she could ask me a question or she could break down in tears about how school is so overwhelming and about how she’ll never finish her homework and that means she’ll get bad grades and not get into a good college and probably end up addicted to drugs living on the street.  All from not being able to do a 10th grade English essay.  I’ll hear about how her teachers are the worst and how unfair they are to her and her classmates.

But, then something magical happens.  She settles down and I hear her tiny little fingers start banging away on the keyboard.  I see her frown turn into a smile and I know she found whatever it is she was looking for.  And about 10 minutes later I hear her say “Thanks Dad, I’m all set.  You can go to bed”.  So, I get up to walk out and I say the same thing I always do “I did nothing, you just figured it out”.  And I walk out of the room completely amazed at her process.  Amazed at how smart she is, amazed that she even bothers to still ask for my help even though she knows she doesn’t need it.  I used to think I was actually helping with her work, but she’s so much smarter and more driven than I ever was that I know that is not the case.  She needs someone to just share in her stress for a few minutes and I love that I get to be that person.  Sure, Mom gets to be that person when it comes to almost everything else for her, but school stuff she picks me.  Even when Mom is home, when I hear “Dadddddd” I know that I need to pretend I am smart again and be ready for whatever questions come my way.  And she’s in these college level classes that require her to think and not to just copy from whatever Google she could find.  So, I am WAY out of my league.  But, she asks for my help and I love that she does.

Last night we watched Survivor and she fell asleep as she always does with about 10 minutes left in the show.  I took a picture of her sleeping and I had this weird thought about how I am going to miss that little quirk about her when she leaves for college in 2 and a half short years.  She woke up after the show was over and as she was searching for her phone that had fallen under a cushion on the couch I told her that I was going to miss this someday.  About how I will be watching the show while she is away and I how I will try to call her to catch up on the show.  She will be so busy living her life she will forget about it and as we are talking she will be frantically Googling things that happened so she can pretend she watched and entertain her Dad for the few short minutes they get on the phone.   Her Dad will know, but he will just be happy he’s talking to his little girl.

Please slow this down.  It’s going way way too fast. I don’t know what God I believe in but I do know someone or something has blessed me with such a great little girl. But if you are listening is there any chance you could just look away from the clock so I could steal a few extra seconds?

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