We are yelling. There is fire in the belly and a glare from his eyes. His tone pushes buttons, big red buttons best kept under glass, and we are shouting louder to fill the void left by the fleeting of his sweetness. I am regretting the regrets that are yet to come.
It is just past noon on a Saturday and he is sitting at the table doing his homework. He has been there for nearly two hours and we have missed the plans that we had planned to keep. He is wired from angst and the constant loss of time. Anger feeds anger and goes hungry again. We taste of salt and bitter.
The homework has slipped the bounds of necessity and acceptability. It has piled high upon the assignments resigned, the ink across them molten like lava from the heat as it rises, melding sheets to books, and mocking the room with a towering testament to the ego of a 6th grade teacher and the power gained by pitting loved ones against the other.
He is 11-years-old, still standing on the crumbs of sand against the line freshly drawn. His is the side of work sans play, a day filled with coursework and hours more to do at home. It is a workload never-ending, replacing the peace of our evenings with turmoil and pain—our weekends full of fights, tears, and ruin.
On the other side is a memory. He was 10 just months ago, an age of recess twice per day, nights with love and life, and weekends meant for the living. It was months ago, and it is gone, and it is all so far away.
I am standing in the next room, his frustration fueling mine, his words a threat to our collective self-control, and I pace barefoot upon the floor searching for something near tranquility.
It is the screaming that gets me most. It is as hard to hear as it is to watch, the ripping of childhood from flesh and bone. It is the sound of innocence lost, the neglectful song of mob mentality, and the broken beat of quotas met—a system bent to break our children.
The lessons taught are not always the lessons learned, and nothing comes from yelling but scars and shame and the harrowing dance of echoes.
He is at the table, and it is slowly turning.
For more on our troubles with homework and the table that supports it please read:
Table Talk on The Writer Revived