Clickety clack

Last night when I sat down to help Leta with her math homework I stared down at a whole bunch of words that made no sense to me whatsoever. Do you know how many times I’ve started a conversation with a parent whose kid is learning math the new way they are doing math these days, and we have simultaneously yelled, “WHY CAN’T THEY JUST CARRY THE ONE?”

Place value drawings.

Have you heard of these? (If you are a third grade teacher PUT YOUR HAND DOWN YOU CHEATER) I had not, so I had to google it. I had to google something in order to help my third grader with her math homework. Mom, I am so sorry the Internet wasn’t around when I was in elementary school. How…? I mean…? It must have been awful.

All those paper cuts from encyclopedias.


While I took the time to figure out place value drawings and how to use them to solve multiplication, I told Leta to go practice piano. She huffed and puffed and blew the house down and then said something about how she never gets to play after school. The reality is that when she got home yesterday I told her she had a half hour to relax, and then I got carried away on a conference call and it ended up being an hour. Sixty minutes. She had a whole hour to play. Last time I checked a whole hour does not equal zero, LOOK WHO IS ACING THIRD GRADE MATH NOW?

So I looked up from my laptop at the kitchen table and mentioned this, that she had been playing for an hour, and she mumbled, “Whatever, it was only ten minutes.”

Do what?

Did my child just “whatever” an adult? Where I come from kids who do that don’t normally live past adolescence and if they do it is with a noticeable limp.

So I stood up, looked at her sternly and out of instinct slipped into my Southern drawl when I said, “Do not ever talk back to me. Do you understand?”

She nodded while frowning, and a few minutes later I heard her playing scales. When she was finished she came back to the kitchen, still frowning, and stood at the opposite end of the table.

“Mom, I lied,” she said on the verge of tears.

“You lied?”

“Yeah, you asked if I understood you, but I don’t,” she explained.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“If I’m not supposed to talk back to you, how am I ever supposed to answer your questions? You’ll try to have a conversation with me and I’ll just be standing there with my mouth closed.”


“Oh, sweetie,” I said, and then I got up and walked over to where she was standing so that I could stroke her back. “I should have explained. ‘Talking back’ is an expression. It means that you were speaking to me in a tone that was disrespectful.”

“Then why didn’t you say, ‘Don’t talk to me in a tone that is disrespectful’? ‘Don’t talk back to me’ makes it seem like you don’t want me to say anything ever for the rest of my life!”

She has a point.

You guys, when she graduates from law school I’m just going to go nuts and sow whatever oats I have left because free legal counsel.