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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I'm a mom with(out) all answers

By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Columnist

My son says I don't know anything useful.

He thinks he means it, but he doesn't really.

I know because once he vents his frustration about my ignorance in vitally important fourth-grade matters, he scarcely takes time to catch his breath before sending another barrage of questions my way, expecting that this time I will have the answers.

He remains ever optimistic that one of these days I'll manage to channel C.S. Lewis and find out the official ages of the Pevensie children or what befell Reepicheep during his journey to Aslan's country.

I think he also secretly expects me to call Disney to find out why they merged two books when they made "The Black Cauldron" movie.

Sometimes as I'm being peppered with questions I can't answer, I find myself wishing he'd knock me off the pedestal once and for all, and give up hope that I might turn out to be omnipotent after all.

At the time I might think I mean it, but I don't really.

I know this because I do everything within my power to hide the fact that his knowledge in some areas greatly surpasses my own.

When Corwin's obsession with all things Narnia infected the rest of the family, I tried to get by on 25-year-old memories of the beloved series. Hah! I eventually had to reread all seven books, only to discover that the things Corwin asks about are not spelled out in the novels.

It made for fascinating discussions on religion, philosophy, politics and tolerance and was well worth the week I spent catching up to him.

I haven't been as lucky when it comes to helping him with his homework.

I'm pretty sure I could do fourth-grade math if I could see an example of what I'm supposed to be doing. I still have the skills. What I'm missing is the vocabulary, and not once in five years has Corwin brought home a textbook that would allow me to learn the newfangled words they use to talk about old ideas.

Instead, he brings home worksheets that contain no context clues and all I can do is sit there in confusion and dismay, speculating about what information I might be missing. Eventually, he'll give up and do his work on his own and I'll try to assuage my guilt by reminding myself that I'm teaching him to work independently.

Of course, I want to keep him coming back for help.

He's approaching the age when he'll truly believe that the only useful things about me are my car and my bank account, and I'd like to avoid that for as long as possible.

I may not be able to achieve omnipotence, but I plan to stay up on the pedestal for as long as I can.

After all, it's a pretty comfortable place to catch up with all matters fourth-grade.

Reach Treena Shapiro at tshapiro@honoluluadvertiser.com.