How come most of the homework is for mum?

2010-01-22 00:00

FIRST week of school is over and I think most of my homework is done. I love the way I have to sign the homework books under the instructions which are meant for me.

• cover dictionary and atlas (contact plastic);

• cover books; and

• mark stationery.

As I collect rolls of paper, scissors and sticky tape and arrange a half-metre high pile of nude exercise books on the dining-room table, I give a perfunctory sigh and send out mental hugs to the millions of women bent to similar tasks around South Africa.

Women who have been up since sparrow’s fart, made lunchboxes, cleaned, gone to work, shopped and cooked, and who find, at the end of a long day, that they now have to fit, cut, fold and stick in the precious hours before bed.

But then, as the rhythm of wrapping unfolds itself, I find that I my weariness about book covering is completely fake.

“Come on,” *Number One once mocked me as he shook the evening paper open on the far end of the table, “admit it: you love covering books.”

This is oddly true. There’s something about the repetition and tedium that is deeply calming. I cannot run away from this job. It has to be done and since Number One is engaged with important matters of current affairs, Number Two is all thumbs and Number Three is too young, I have to do it and I have to do it now.

If I don’t, I can’t sign the homework diary because then she’ll know I never actually check the kids’ homework before signing their diaries for the rest of the year.

I realise that I get a little thrill when you tuck the blades around a sheet of paper and they glide with that smooth ripping sound to the other end of the roll. I like to compare that with the thick, almost silent slide of the blades on the plastic wrap.

I’ve worked out how to do corners on thick hard cover notebooks so they look neat and so that the whole thing doesn’t warp when you close it, and which sides need to be taped first on the plastic so it doesn’t slip when you turn the book over. I know how to edge contact plastic into bubble-free place with a ruler, and can’t resist a little hmmpph of satisfaction when I achieve 100% smoothness.

I like the feel of the nib on the new black fineliner scritch-scratching away as I note in neat capital letters that this particular book belongs to the son or daughter of Schimke who is in Grade whatever, and that this particular specimen will be used for learning history or doing spelling tests in.

And that fresh pile of covered books: the plastic unscarred, the pages pristine, that idea of wholeness, newness and the perfection and promise of the blank slate ... ooh, yes, I do love covering books.

But I truly, truly hate having to mark every pen and pencil with my children’s initials, especially since such marking has never saved a piece of equipment from classroom oblivion.

— Parent



* My family members are numbered in the order in which they appeared in my life.

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