Long Division

Dear third grader,

Long division is hard. Besides potty-training and reading, it might be the toughest challenge you have ever faced. It is especially awful when you imagine that Mom is doing it wrong.

Divide. Multiply. Carry down a zero. Subtract. Divide. Multiply. Carry down a zero. Subtract. Repeat until you hit a number smaller than your original divisor.

Because if you imagine that Mom is making stuff up, you’re going to invent a new way of doing division that gets you to the incorrect answer. And it is likely going to take you longer to get there. And then after all that effort and brain power and creativity that you just dedicated to dividing one number by another, you are going to freak out. Cry. Scream. Stomp your feet. Run out of the room.

“You think I’m stupid!” will be followed by “Then you think my teacher is stupid!”

And you will still have to come back later to finish your homework.

So while I will definitely slide off the “I know this” platform after a few more years of math, I promise I will admit it when the time comes. For now, though, stick with me. You will get this, because you are all about effort and brain power and creativity… and we make a great team.

Divide. Multiple. Carry down the zero. Subtract.

I love you, sweet man,



Is Today Really a Sick Day?

When my third grader found out that I am babysitting his cousin because she doesn’t have school today, he wilted a little.

I put his bagel in front of him, and he moaned, snuggling deeper into the bright blue fleece blanket he had wrapped himself in before coming downstairs.

“I don’t feel so good.”

I kissed the top of his head.

“No really. Everything feels squiggly and squirmy like a bunch of snakes.”

“In your eyes or your tummy?”

“Both.” He reached his hand out from his blanket, weaving it slightly in front of the bagel as if the breakfast itself were moving, alive. A B-movie performance.

“Poor guy.”

I waited a couple of minutes, then… “Isn’t today the day I promised we’d stop at the School Store?”

The blanket fell from his shoulders. A straight reach for the bagel this time. Squiggly, squirmy feelings gone.

Funny how buying a goofy pen at the School Store cures what ails a third grader.

Lucky Underpants

My third grader was struggling to get ready for school this morning, nervous after a meltdown with friends yesterday. With two minutes before departure, I entered his room to find him still wearing pajamas and wrapped in his blue baby blanket. When I entered, he covered his head with a pillow.

“You’re not dressed? We have two minutes!” before I realized we needed a more tender approach if we were going to get out the door.

I grabbed his clothes and tossed him his underwear. “Orange star underwear!” I announced playfully as he caught them.

His mood brightened immediately. “But these aren’t my lucky underpants.”

I didn’t know he had lucky underpants.

“Do you need them today?”

“Can’t. Wore them yesterday. They’re the camouflage ones. I’ve had them since I was four.”

“So you need new underwear.”

“Nope. My lucky underpants are perfect.”