Tuesday, April 28, 2009

School Projects

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.

Other Parents

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.


Kate Coveny Hood said...

I sooooo don't look forward to this... It's like a whole other job!


I need a nap just thinking about it.

[We have some of those parents too. *They* should be getting the grade since their kid had nothing to do with it.]

AnastasiaSpeaks said...

That made me cry. Actual tears running-down-my-face, need a napkin kind of cry.

I'm so sad for you (and for him) because I know exactly how it feels to be frustrated and take it out on people around you (mommy, yelling is not nice! You're right sweetie, mommy's sorry). And when it's your children, it kills you inside knowing that you did it.

We all do it sometimes. We're human.

I work on this all the time. I've gotten so much better. I win most of the time (my patience level has increased beyond my wildest imagination), but I still lose sometimes. When I lose, I quickly snap out of it and make sure my kids know that I love them and explain whatever life lesson is appropriate at the time (sweetie, I know you're upset that you can't have the train but you can't throw your toy at your brother's head!).

Lastly, the whole parents doing their kids work for them thing really makes me mad. Even in preschool I see how the parents do the stuff for their kids that the kids are supposed to do themselves (my son's valentine's cards had no resemblence to any valentine I'd ever seen but he had fun making them). It's not a big deal now but I can see exactly why it can be a big deal later.

OK, I rambled but I wanted to tell you that you're not alone and that we all have to keep trying to be the best parent we can be so our children grow up emotionally healthy.

Jen on the Edge said...

I'm sorry that you guys had a rough spot this weekend when J10 was working on the shield. But, KUDOS for making him do it himself. I hate it when other parents do their children's homework for them. I'm like you and make my girls do their own projects. Yes, I'll help them gather supplies and yes I'll get them started on their research, but the final product will be 100% theirs, even it's a bit sloppy.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Have you tried helping him make a schedule when he gets an assignment like this--so he's only doing 10 or 15 minutes a day. My son was similar in artistic talent and that helped him.

When I'm a teacher I'm totally allowing the clip art. If you're an artist, great--if not, why not do it another way?

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Uf, I hear your pain. I'm the mom who follows the rules and sees her kid hand over an actual "Kid Created" project time and again--while the other kids hand over their parents/hired professionals' work. It's such BS.

And I've jumped my kids' shit for the same kind of thing. Ouch.

ducky said...

Self-awareness goes a long, long way.

Anna See said...

Oh my goodness. I can relate! I've crumpled up more projects in frustration, but I DON'T want my kids doing the same thing. Ugh.

My son makes it through projects better than my daughter.

I actually told my daughter I think it's ridiculous that she has to learn paragraphs-long Bible verses. I told her that if she were thrown in prison, she would probably remember shorter verses much better and get more comfort from them. Now she's got Jail on the mind AND thinks her assignment is dumb. Not my intention at all.

anymommy said...

I can really see myself here too. So many things you describe, procrastination because of fear of failure or doing things wrong.

As a mom though, you showed him exactly how to handle it, you slowed down, went back, tackled the problem, apologized for getting frustrated. I am impressed and inspired!

Texasholly said...

Those parents SUCK. We have a few of them here as well. I try to ignore them. My favorite was a second grade project where it was instructed that the kids had to print the titles and it really looked like two of them sent them out to the printers...I don't even think the kids traced the letters. Dumb parents. Frustrating dumb parents.

I totally empathize with the scene. Ryan does schoolwork two days at home and at some point during the day there is some sort of Act I like you described. Usually following an hour of his procrastination tantrums.

Hang in there. Those other parents are going to end up at college with their babies because they will need help...

the mama bird diaries said...

I think you did exactly what a mom should do. You realized your mistake and worked to fix it. That's all any of us can do.

flutter said...

awww, honey...

Leanne said...

Yep. Been there.

I went through this with my guy too, and it passes. Soon the kid will do his own work and you won't have to 'hold the pencil to get anything done' like I use to say.
And you know what? You're a good Mom. You realized what you were doing and you stepped back and stopped it. Keep up the GREAT work. Hugs.

Jennifer H said...

You're a good mother, or you wouldn't have felt bad after. I have been here SO often. Homework sucks, and those projects suck, and for the life of me, I don't know what they learn from them.

Those other parents? Suck, too.