My oldest son and I stared at each other with our matching eyes and furrowed brows.
“You have no homework?” I repeated for the third time.
“No,” he responded again, steadfast.
It was a Thursday night, and it was the third night in a row I could neither get an admission nor any proof of homework.
The suspicious nature of this pattern had not escaped me.
“So if I go to school tomorrow morning and ask your teacher, she will agree that there has been no homework this week?” I challenged.
I sighed. This was going nowhere.
“Fine,” I relented. “That's what we'll do.”
He sauntered away with such nonchalance that I began to doubt my suspicion.
Nonetheless, I decided there would be no harm in speaking with his teacher.
“Oh, no,” she said with a laugh. “There has been homework.”
My head pivoted slowly in the direction of my son, who stared back at me sheepishly.
Choosing self-control over the satisfaction of grounding him on the spot, I thanked his teacher, waved to my child and decided there would be a strong conversation upon his return from school.
“I didn't exactly fib,” he muttered. “I just forgot I had homework.”
My exasperation welled. Standing in front of me was an incredibly intelligent child … who just refused to do his homework.
“I want to see it every day,” I told him with surprising calm. “Every. Single. Day. No TV or play time until I see it.”
He looked at me with such a strange expression. I wasn't certain whether we were headed for tears or a fit.
He surprised me by doing neither, and instead marched to his room. Deciding we both needed quiet time, I sat in the kitchen to process the situation while I awaited my husband.
“Eh, he's like his dad,” my husband told me when I recounted my frustration.
“Oh, so this is your fault!” I exclaimed with a wry smile.
He chuckled, and then we both became thoughtful again.
“So, what do we do?” I asked him.
“Let him learn the hard way,” he responded easily. “If he gets a bad grade, he'll know there really is a consequence.”
I thought about my son. As his mother, I wished him to never learn anything the hard way. But in life — and particularly when you have the inherited stubbornness of both of your parents — sometimes consequences are the only teacher.
“I'd rather him figure it out now than in high school,” I conceded to my husband.
And so, we let our son continue his homework antics. He eyed us warily when we didn't ask where his papers were.
He hesitated when we asked him how his day was. And then finally, one Friday afternoon, he came to me with tearful eyes.
“Mom,” he muttered, “I think I got a bad grade.”
I looked at the paper he held up.
“69 out of 100,” I said calmly. “That's a D+.”
He burst into tears, and I wrapped my arms around him.
“I could have done better!” he wailed.
I nodded, but said nothing as he buried his head in my sweater.
Life had taught him a lesson. But I had a feeling his grades would only improve. And in the meantime, I had no shortage of hugs.