Tuesday, November 30, 2010

We Love School Projects!

Long ago when I had one pre-schooler, I offered to host my friend’s ten-year-old while she and her husband spent a weekend away. She arrived at my house with a suitcase, a poster board, and a look of complete exasperation.

She gestured to the poster board and went on to rant and rave about school projects and pictures of wolves and glue and bibliographies and habitats and blah, blah, blah.

I confess that I found her reaction a tad over the top. It’s just a school project. What’s the big deal?

Now, if you had peered into my window this morning, you would have seen the dining room table covered with paste-ups of amphibians and birds, mammals and invertebrates. A few still-damp pieces were lying under ceiling fans set on high in hopes that the glue would dry before Ainsley woke up and shredded the whole enchilada. You might have witnessed a slight tension in the air when “Things to know about reptiles” temporarily went missing. You might have discerned a distinct drop in blood pressure as the whole kit and caboodle went Out! The! Door! at 8:10 this morning.

I now understand that chest-tightening sensation a mother feels when a special set of instructions arrives home in the backpack.

There’s the state project, the country project, the swamp diorama, and - the mother of all projects – the science fair. Oh, what memories we have made. We’ve glued maps far into the evening and assembled bibliographies at the eleventh hour.

When food is involved, the stakes are even higher. I say stakes not steaks because one thing I’ve learned after years of having school age kids: Never invest in exotic fare with kids who look at a bag of Cheetos and think they’re in high cotton.

We try to avoid the last minute - really, we do – but sometimes the unexpected occurs – a file goes missing, the playdoh lizard becomes a double amputee in the hands of the two-year-old, the map of the Gobi Desert get crumpled. So we are up late, trying hard not to take the easy path and do it ourselves, exercising great restraint as we growl, “Just hand me the darn blessed lovely iguana so I can glue it on already.”

I know I’ve matured in all of this. I got a late call from a mom trying to interpret directions. She was laughing about her oldest son getting an “E” for “Excellent” instead of an “E+” for “Exceptionally Excellent” because he had hand written his titles rather than having his mom type them.

“E” sounds great to me. I mean, “G” is for “Good” and that means, well, “Good.” Right?

She laughed and said, “This is why God gave me six kids.” I guess that’s why God gave me four. You can micromanage one or two, no sweat. Beyond two, it gets a little dicey. While not wholly detached from my kids’ grades by a long shot, I now view them as just that – their grades, not mine.

For two nights Kolbe has been sketching and labeling while I have been scrounging up construction paper and counting specimen. What could have been one painful ordeal has actually been fun due to three factors:

1. Kolbe is an awesome kid.

2. Kolbe loves to draw.

3. Mom has steadfastly refused to freak out.

I expect a round of applause for #3.

I will never forget my sister desperately trying to get her son to finish an assignment. In a moment of sheer frustration and exhaustion – and let’s face it, we’ve all been there – she finished it for him, trying very hard to imitate the penmanship of a second grader. At the next parent-teacher conference, the teacher called her on it. Busted, so totally busted. Oh, how I laughed! Nailed for failure to fake your kid’s writing. Hilarious.

Imagine my chagrin when Kolbe woke up this morning, looked at his science project, and said, “Mom, you did a great job!”

I cringed and told him he was not, under any circumstances, to repeat that at school.


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christinelaennec said...

How funny! (But serious.) We've spent a good part of the last four days helping our daughter to revise maths and do a PowerPoint presentation for English. It's so hard to stand back and let her stay in the lead!