Yesterday J10 turned in one of those do-at-home school projects. It was an Arthurian shield. We worked on it last week.
I hate school projects. Hate them.
Honestly. It looked like shit. I love my son more than anything in the world. Love him. The kid can't draw. And that's OK. I'm OK with that. That is not my issue here. I have two -- other parents and me.
There are two fourth grade classes in our school. The other class turned their shields in last week and they are proudly displayed in the hallway at school. So I had a chance to check them out. I don' know what instructions the other teacher sent home but the sheet I got specifically said children were to do their own artwork and it was to be drawn -- not printed off the computer. Some of those shields looked like mummy and dada had called up a local ad agency and hired an art director. I don't really care what they are teaching their kid. I care that my son's work, that already is, shall we say, lacking, has to hang up next to the professional's stuff. Or at least something that was done by an adult. Saturday while he was working on his shield he started saying things like, "this looks horrible" and "i can't draw." Yeah, I said all the stuff I thought I should about doing your own work, even if drawing isn't your thing, you are so good at other things, etc. etc. etc. But it really cranks me that he's not on a fair playing field and he's to young to really understand that. So he's left feeling inadequate. I wish those parents realized what they were doing to the kids that are following the rules.
So. We're working on the project Saturday. He has to draw four things on the shield. We've made shield, divided it into four sections, he's put his motto on it, drawn one of the illustrations, has three left. We are leaving in two hours. He has to have it done before we leave.
I sit at the table with him. We talk about what he'll draw to illustrate his hobbies, his future plans. After finding every possible excuse not to start (I need water, I need to go to the bathroom) he finally starts working. But it's all "I can't do this." "I don't know what to do." etc. etc. etc.
Forty-five minutes in my patience is gone. The husband is sitting on the couch watching t.v., surfing the internet and interjecting positive reinforcement statements like, "get to work!" "stop screwing around" etc. etc. etc.
Finally I lose it. I'm saying things things like "hurry UP!" "get to freaking work" my voice is getting louder and louder. my husband is chiming in, louder and louder. J10s face is clouding up, his eye's filling with tears. I finally pull this one out - "Do you think I LIKE my job? Do you? Do you think I like going to work every day? I HATE it!!! But I have to. There are things in life you HAVE to do. No one likes working! But we all have to! NOW GET THIS DONE!!"
The whole time I am saying this I am thinking this "what the F@ck is wrong with you? why are you setting him up to think he has to hate his life? to hate working? to not find something fulfilling? WHY ARE YOU YELLING???"
J10 bursts into tears, yells "you always yell at me! you guys make me feel HORRIBLE"
And he's right. I was making him feel horrible.
He grabbed a marker and started coloring and of course totally screwed up what he was working on and then he really burst into tears.
The worst thing was? It was like looking in a mirror. Everything about J10 and his approach to this project is me. me me me. the lack of belief in himself, the procrastination, the doubt, everything. As soon as I was done ranting at him and looked him in the eye it hit me. hard. i knew how he was feeling because i had felt it a million times. i still do.
I took a deep breath. Told him we could fix it. Cut out a new piece of posterboard, glued it over the ruined section so you couldn't even see it, the whole time telling him I was sorry, that nothing is life is not fixable (which actually isn't true, bu we'll get to that later in life I guess -- some things you can' do over, some things are not repairable), that we could fix it, that I understood.
So, yeah, I calmed down, we ended up having fun. sort of. and finishing the project. I feel horrible still though. I don't know how to help him, not with the big things, like changing his attitude and how he feels about himself. I hope I can help him figure some of that out sooner than I did. That's all I'm hoping for.