It was a hurried Monday morning after a long weekend with errands, family commitments, and simply time to rest. We woke up to the startling realization that my first grader had not completed his “turkey project,” which was simply a color page of a turkey that the students were supposed to “disguise” so that humans would mistaken the turkey for another and thus decide not to consume him for Thanksgiving dinner.
At 6:45am, in pajamas and a panic, we grabbed random things from the craft drawers in the kitchen and began gluing feverishly.
He cried at the finished product and refused to turn it in. “This wasn’t how I wanted him to look, Mommy,” he said. “This wasn’t my idea.” At six-years-old, he went to school and asked for another turkey to do, this time making him a ninja.
And it looked like a six-year-old did it.
I have three kids in elementary school, and have had a multitude of opportunities over our few years in school to take a peek at many turkeys, science projects, Christmas parade mini-floats, poster contests, and book reports. It is fascinating to me that there are second graders out there who have better grammar and handwriting than I do, but seeing as their parents often do these projects for them, it turns out that they do not.
What happened to handing your child a poster board, glue stick, scissors, crayons, and telling them to have a go at it?
These are the tools of success; handing them the basics and watching them create. My sons are still small; if they need help with a glue gun or sharp pair of shears, of course I will be there to help. But when their projects look a scary amount like an adult’s Pinterest project, I think it is time to reevaluate our priorities. We do tons of things with our kids and spend quality time together as a family; school projects are not on that list. My ten-year-old daughter recently entered a poster into a school contest. Neither my husband nor I touched it, not once. She won a blue ribbon, and I cannot tell you how proud she was when I picked her up from school that day. She earned that ribbon, not me. Has she won every time she’s entered? Of course not. But there is nothing so thrilling as taking pride in your own work, no matter your age.
Our kids will grow from science projects to SATs, college finals to work performance reviews. And while I will be there, cheering them on with every step, I will not be the one filling in the bubbles on the exam form or shaking the hand of the boss that gives a positive (or negative) review. So why would I be gluing cereal or popcorn in perfect symmetrical circles for them now?