Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Middle School Science Fair: Do All Things Without Grumbling or Complaining Or Faultfinding

So begins Philippians 2:14 . . .

Here's a confession that will startle no one: I grumble.

I grouse about The Pinewood Derby and the state of my bathrooms. I whine about Boy Scout packing lists and lost PE clothes. I lament most events that require a costume and any school project that involves a trip to a craft store.

Let's just say Philippians 2 gives me pause. Pause to squirm and gulp and repent. Maybe I can start by doing some things  -- perhaps just one thing? -- without grumbling or complaining or faultfinding?

Toddlers and The Science Fair -- a dicey combination.

In the past week I have been privy to a few conversations about grumbling. And I think that I not only participated, but I aided and abetted the whole affair. I fear I have hurt feelings and caused a person or two to stumble.

It all began with The Science Fair.

I have dedicated a surprisingly large amount of virtual ink to The Science Fair. Let me state my official position for the record: We love The Science Fair. We are glad our school has The Science Fair. I am especially grateful to Mr. Swenson, science teacher extraordinaire, for initiating the project, modelling an in-class experiment for the sixth graders, arranging judges, buying awards, handling the regional fair, etc, etc, etc.

See, I've been a teacher. I've done the projects, arranged the field trips, scheduled a guest speaker or two. All this is a whole lot more complicated and time consuming than saying, "Open your books to chapter seven. Test is Monday."

Took five years off my life.
At least as whining goes, I'm an equal opportunity lender. The Science Fair gets no more of my kvetching than does the research paper, and if I were to plot totals complaints neatly on a multi-colored Excel spreadsheet, The Science Fair would rate somewhere between the diorama of the Gobi Dessert and the scale model of Pickett's Charge and well behind the clear and obvious winner, The Pinewood Derby. Now, I love the Pinewood Derby. I plan to check into a hotel room the night before this year's Derby, but let the record reflect that I love it still. The Pinewood Derby costs more in terms of supplies, time, stomach lining, and lingering issues related to blood pressure and inhalation of spray paint.

So from a random sampling of school and Scout projects, the data shows that The Science Fair comes in a distant third where over-all stress is concerned. I have yet to purchase a new Dremmel the night before The Science Fair, and for this I am grateful.

I should also add that I do not blame teachers for my child's procrastination nor for any disorganization on the part of the family. I never, never, never, ever, ever, ever bash a teacher, principal, Scout leader, coach, crossing guard, etc. to my kids. I may ask clarifying questions. I may encourage a child to speak to an adult privately. I make phone calls and write notes.

I don't bash.

Our kids need to know that we're listening and that we're their advocates. But here's a corollary to that principle: Our teachers and coaches need to know the same thing. We're all on the same team, people!

But back to my original premise: I grouse.

And I'm of two minds on the whole issue of grousing.

Mothers have always sought out like-minded mothers for companionship and advice, to exchange ideas and and to vent. Back in the day, we groused over coffee in the backyard or a long phone call while the babies slept. We talked about sleepless nights and first steps, teething and potty training, school projects and worrisome behaviors, joys and trials, ups and downs.

Today the topics haven't changed, but the media has. We're no longer sitting in the backyard or the corner park; we're in front of a computer screen. And our venting and bragging are less likely to be confined to tight-knit and trusted soul mates. We start with our friends and move to their friends and their friends and so on and so on, ratcheting up Likes and Shares along the way.

We put it out there. Sometimes it travels a shade farther than we'd like. Sometimes we regret what we've shared. So it was with the something I shared on Facebook the other night. It was negative, and it generated more negativity. If I can figure out how to pull it down, I will.

But here's another take on grousing: I don't want to morph into a humorless person who can't laugh at her own foibles or challenges.

Early in married life, Dave and I had two weekend rituals. On Saturday we would read James Kilpatrick's column The Writer's Art out loud, and on Sundays we would do the same with Dave Barry. Jimbo, God rest his soul, died, and Dave Barry retired. We miss them both. One Sunday, we read Science: It's Just Not Fair, Dave Barry's take on The Science Fair. We howled with laughter and promptly called our friend Kathleen who was in charge of The Science Fair back in the day. For the record, she laughed, too.

I laugh about the absurdities of life because it makes it all a touch lighter.

I need to try harder to do all things without grumbling or complaining or faultfinding. But I need to retain my sense of humor, too.

I'm glad my kids are challenged to do hard things. School is lots of things and one of them is preparation for Real Life which demands performance, stamina, fortitude, and any number of other character traits strengthened by giving that speech you'd rather not give, finishing that project you'd rather torch in the backyard fire pit, tightening that faltering argument, staying up late to put the finishing touches on your diorama.

(Life also demands a sense of humor, so laugh about it when it's all over.)

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