First things first

One of my sons had chosen to take a nap after school before dragging himself to football practice. By the time he got home and showered, it was already 8:30 p.m. when he was starting up his laptop to do his homework.

“When is this due?” I set him up with a plate of food and a drink at his desk.

“I have to get this part done by tomorrow.”

I passed by a little later on my way to the laundry room and peeked over his shoulder, balancing the basket on my hip. It seemed like he was off to a fine start.

“I’m gonna need a color printer.”

“We don’t have one anymore. I guess you’ll have to color in the stuff you printed out.” I supposed this was a good use of the colored pencils on each of my boys’ school supplies lists.

He groaned.

I’d remembered I’d wanted to add some hand towels to the wash I’d started, and on my next trip to the washing machine, I brought my son a container of hand wipes so he wouldn’t get food all over the keyboard.

“Mom, do you know how to make titles or labels for these stupid graphs?”

“No – I use Excel for work but rarely make graphs or charts.”

So we Googled, “How do you create titles and labels for graphs” (omitting the word “stupid”) to figure that part out. “See, honey, if you get stuck again, just ask for help online.”

Later, when I went to check on him again the laundry, my son was sound asleep in bed. I moved the laundry to the dryer.

The next morning, he was back at it, but was struggling with charts. “No, honey, I can’t imagine why the pie chart isn’t working...” I answered on my way to the dryer.

“Sigh, mutter, grumble,” he was starting to panic, I could tell.

“Can I get you something to eat?”

I brought his breakfast to his desk and discovered him struggling with graphics. I didn’t know what that had to do with the charts, but I offered some suggestions. “Can you right click?”

“NOoooo-oo-ooo!” he wailed loudly.

“Okay, well,” trying to remain calm, I suggested, “Save as. Yes, on the c: drive, or wherever you can find it again when you need it. Then insert it into a document…”

The next time I looked in, I saw that he was again agonizing over a “dumb old pie chart.” “Here, let me see.” I leaned over him and grabbed the mouse. “Hmmm, I don’t know, honey. But look at the time. Why don’t you just give me that flash drive and I’ll see if I can print these other two for you.” Our shared non-color printer is also non-networked.

He came up to my office dragging his open and overstuffed backpack just as the papers were spewing out of the printer. “Honey, the charts didn’t fit on one page. I am sorry, I tried to move them but there was something behind this one and the alignment is off.” I handed him the flash drive.

“What about the graphics!?” He demanded, alarm causing his voice to rise.

“I didn’t know you needed those printed, too. Honey, we really don’t have time. You can’t miss the bus!” The alarm in my voice matched his. We no longer live half a minute from the school and a trip there would require a good 30 minutes of my time, which was not an option that morning, and even if it were an option any morning, I had already warned them that they would owe me taxi fare. (I have yet to ask the elementary school bus driver if she would take them an hour later.)

“I’ll try to hold it for you,” his brother called as he took off out the door.

My son was distraught, “What am I supposed to do!?”

“Well, you could stay up later or get up earlier. That’s what I do for work when I have something due…”

“No, I mean now, today, about this!” He was frantically stuffing the papers into his backpack.

I urged him along towards the door. “Take your flash drive to school and tell your teacher you need time to work on it; that you were having trouble with Excel, with printing. What are kids who don’t have Excel, never mind computers, or color printers supposed to do!?” I was annoyed.

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