It starts innocently enough. Your child is given the task of picking a place, a person, a mammal, etc. to write about. Said “writing assignment” is undoubtedly teamed with a “creative portion.” By project’s end, one of these two elements will become the bane of your existence. Behold this NJ mom’s descent into madness.
Step One: Selection Process
4th Grade state report: He could have selected my beloved-NJ, MS perhaps where PopPop lives, Maryland where his sister lives. But why pick someplace we (I) may actually have knowledge of? That’s just silly. Let’s pick a state where we have no friends, so we can enjoy this learning opportunity. And the winner is… Oklahoma?
I now present to you the dialogue over the course of 10 days…
Step Two: “Independent” Research
Did you read your state book yet? “No.” Did you read your state book yet? “No.” Did you read your state book yet? “What book?” Sit down, read the OK book, and get ready to do the answers. “I have a book?” PLEASE PLEASE just read… the… darn (alright, damn) book… NOW. “why do you have to yell at me?”
Day 11 of my captivity…
Step Three: How’s It Going In There?
(Mutter this section’s title 4 times, before walking over, neck tightening) What are you doing? “What? Oh, my report.” Really? Is your report on Oklahoma or on Canada’s Labrador province since that's what's occupying you now? Let me just finish folding this laundry and I’ll help you. (insert “du du dunnnnn” noise)
Step Four: Um, Maybe This Would Be Good Idea?
I really think these answers should be complete sentences. “Nu-UH.” Ok, fine. “Don’t say ‘fine’ because whenever you say it doesn’t mean it’s really ‘fine.’”
Two days elapse during the arc of this phase alone:
Um, you seem to be struggling on this part. I mean, drawing postcards for someplace you’ve never been is hard. You’re maybe about ½ way done and it’s due day after tomorrow. “Ok Mom but you can’t give me the answers.” OH- I know THAT. I'll give you some choices, but you have to decide. What would YOU put on OK postcards: A horse, an octopus, or a polar bear? Next question: What souvenir would you bring back from OK? (and you need to draw it, honey): a jet propelled rocket ship, a manatee in a Hawaiian shirt, or a lasso?— Good, moving right along. Zip it- you can color it later let’s keep moving.
Step Five: Hey- I Know What We (I Mean You) Can Do!
Basically just the same as Step Four, only a day later. Tensions are running high, with increasing urgency, decreasing patience, and depleted Chardonnay. Desperation sets in as you watch your child struggle over sticker selection, the finer nuances of plagiarism, and an intense need to watch everything else in room. Compulsively, you are now shifting chair to 3” from the child, asking for the pen, and turning paper toward you. You may not even realize it. You are heading into the next and final phase, and you are now on the Due Date Eve.
Step Six: Well maybe I DO know what I'm talking about
Oh for the LOVE of GOD JUST LISTEN TO ME! Just trust me. Really, it’s due tomorrow. 11 hours from now. I know you don’t want to do it this way but I did 4th grade already and I was good at it. Now—please---hand---me---the—crayon. Mommy is just going to help you color this section. What do you mean you left your crayons at school? Whatever- grab one of the extra boxes. Your brother did what with them? But why would he melt six boxes of crayons in the backyard? Forget it, I don’t want to know. Faster idea—I mean better idea. Of course a computer print collage is fine. No prob. (Agitation brewing. Eyes wild) Ok, now please step away so I can glue stick this please. I said please. I said move. I said glue stick. Don’t let the glue stick dropppp….. Damn it! Eric!!! Get the glue stick out of the dog’s mouth-- He’s coming your way!
Look, I know you’re tired. “no, I’m NOT!” I am and you are. “NO I AM NOT! I JUST HATE OKLAHOMA!” Well who told you to pick Oklahoma? Huh!? You think I’m loving Oklahoma now? I don’t care if we never set foot there—as long as you set foot in your classroom tomorrow with this, we never even have to think about Oklahoma! Now wipe the dog’s slobber off the glue stick and give it to me. Good. Perfect. Done. Voila! Now roll it up so the dog doesn’t get it. “It will be fine.” No, wrap it. “No, I want to look at it.” Do you remember what happened to your brother’s clay, toothpick covered hedgehog for his book report in 2nd grade when we left the room and forgot the dog was in there. “Oh, yeah.”
Two hours later: Cherubs in bed. Glue dry on paper. Glue off of dog. Project packed up by back pack—elevated. Kids in bed. Ahhhh.
Ps. I’m so excited. We got an A. Fabulous. Now on to the 6th grade Mongolia report.