Last week, triggered by a viral article (in Chinese) titled, “Goodness, what have I done wrong, to have to do homework with my kids” (老娘我做错了什么，要陪孩子做作业), Chinese parents flocked to social media to share their own experiences of homework meltdowns with their children.
“I helped my son with his homework until fifth grade, and then one day, I had a heart attack and was sent to a hospital,” one father wrote (below). “After contemplation, I realized that life is more important, and homework — just let it be, take it as it comes.”
(“Only fifth grade, you gotta live well,” wrote one sympathetic commenter.)
Another blamed his illness — literal bleeding from the brain — on his child’s homework. “Please don’t let me do homework with him again,” he wrote.
Posts like these inspired waves of sympathy:
“Kinship found!! Feel ya! Come homework time, the whole yard knows my howls.”
@mxhx replied, “Me, too, his father says every day, just after entering the residential compound, he’ll know whether or not I’m home.” The comment below reads, “My child is in kindergarten, for the last few days while sleeping he’ll always hear a woman lecturing loudly; upon listening closely, he realized she was assisting with homework, apparently that can also be considered howling…”
And since this is the internet, were there memes? There were memes:
Though the parents’ exact cause for frustration varied, complaints appeared to center on their children’s lack of concentration, their low efficiency, and as one parent put it — blatantly and hilariously — their “stupidity.”
“I am a teacher and a mother. I feel I never taught a student more stupid than my son. When I get too angry, I just spank him.”
“Come homework time, I have to pee, I have to poop, I have to drink water, my stomach doesn’t feel well, a mosquito bit my leg, all kinds of things. Every minute, I want to spank him.”
“It ticks me off, ten minus two equals three, because after counting one set of fingers, he forgot there was another set.”
Comment 1: “Ours, while counting, says, ‘Mom, I’m out of fingers,’ and I say, ‘Add your toes’…and then without a word, he goes to take off his socks…”
Comment 2: “My second grader, today, 2×6=30…I said, ‘Where’s your head?’ He replied, ‘Present.'”
Parents getting together to compare notes on their little monsters, to vent and rage about their suckling tots and twiddling tykes, is an experience all parents know well. Remember Adam Mansbach’s Go the Fuck to Sleep, a “children’s book for adults”? It was successful not just because of genius lines such as “Hell no, you can’t go to the bathroom. / You know where you can go? The fuck to sleep,” but also because it found an empathetic audience in the fellowship of adults engaged in the hardest job in the world. And in few places is that job more difficult than in China, where children and grown-ups alike face enormous competition and outsized pressure to navigate a treacherous education system in which resources are limited and opportunities are few.
So, in honor of parents everywhere, we’d like to present a ditty of sympathy:
What is it today, arithmetic?
No, don’t take off your socks.
Better this than history…for the last time,
Confucius was not a warlock.
You have to pee? Hold it. You have to
Poop? Well, shit. Mosquito? Spare me.
First say you know thirteen plus two
You’re trying to kill me. My brain is bleeding.
What hellspawn hath the devil made me?
Do your homework. Work. Work. For the love
Of God and all that is holy…please.
With reporting from Jiayun Feng