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School was just out for Spring Break. Now, while I understand the symbolic reasons to celebrate the holidays, they always present one urgent issue: what am I supposed to do with the kids?

Here is something that will keep me occupied. My eight year old daughter came home with her spelling test recently. I knew something was fishy when even her own chubby hands could not conceal all of the red markings written on top.

“My teacher was wearing a red outfit today,” she began, “so she chose a red pen to match.”

That certainly made sense.

“Would you mind if I looked at it?” I patiently asked my daughter.

“Just the bottom part.”

I took the paper from her and to my dismay saw a big fat zero and next to it in large letters was written: “Improvement Needed.”

“She didn’t even give me credit for my name,” pleaded my daughter.

“I would have been proud had you written Kelly’s name on it,” I responded.

My wife seemed to take it a bit better.

“I’m not surprised,” she told me at the dinner table, “she inherited your brains.”

“Spelling was actually one of my strengths in school,” I explained to my wife.

“But then you graduated kindergarten,” she remarked.

So now comes the difficult part of deciding what to do next. I can’t allow my daughter to keep failing at school. Just imagine what her teacher will think of me…. How about a tutor?

I panic while imagining my paycheck going straight into the hands of some high school kid. I search through my phone and check all the numbers I have for various relatives who stay at home and, possibly, have available time.

Aunt Barbara makes the best Boston cream pie, but she’ll have no patience for my daughter who had asked her if the secret ingredient is shaving cream. Uncle Irving is illiterate and my 48 year old unemployed cousin, Nate, who still lives at home, is too busy searching for a paper route. (He polishes his Schwinn bicycle every day.)

Discouraged as I was, I sought guidance from a friend. After explaining my saga, I could control myself no longer.

“So my daughter is having a hard time spelling,” I exploded, “isn’t that what the teacher is there for? To teach!”

“No, you got it all wrong,” my friend said, “now-a-days, teachers are so busy with being evaluated,  trying to decipher the Danielson method, registering for a computer science degree to understand the new technology, and corresponding with apprehensive parents that they simply don’t have time to teach anymore.”

Aren’t friends helpful?

I still was left with an unanswered problem with how to help my daughter improve her spelling. There’s one thing that I didn’t try yet, as it was to remain last after all viable options had been exhausted. The bribe.

Didn’t bribery work for you as a child when your parents left you home with the babysitter (again)? Many a toy store have benefitted from the tactic. My friends would call me Geoffrey due to all of the stuff I would bring to school from Toys R Us.

The following night, I sat down at the edge of my daughter’s bed while she was laying there getting ready for sleep.

“Honey, what can I get you that will help you do better at school?”

The dimly lit bedroom was eerily quiet as she thought. I became very nervous.

“I want a Star Wars life size Stormtrooper.”

Gulp.

“Well, let’s see how you do on your next spelling test and I’ll discuss it with Mommy. Fair?”

She nodded her head.

I kissed the top of her blond head and exited the room. Before she could think of any other great ideas.

The next week, my daughter got a 92 on her spelling test. I was so excited, my wife was considering driving me to the ER.

“Calm down, calm down,” my wife told me, “I know you’re happy but this is not good for your heart.”

“Who said anything about being happy,” I replied, “do you have any idea how much a Star Wars life size Stormtrooper costs?”

I am now one hundred dollars lighter and lost 48 inches of my closet space, but I am quite satisfied as my daughter can now spell, “lightsaber, “”parsecs” and “midichlorian.”

A worthy investment indeed….

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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