When is it time to let your little pumpkin sink-or-swim (in a non-literal way, of course)?
I think I've figured out the answer: The time to let your little pumpkin sink-or-swim coincides with the time when they've figured out they can blame YOU for not reminding THEM that they've forgotten to do a very important, graded project.
Yes, when buck passing becomes the order of the day, it is most definitely time to shove the assignment back into their ten digits and declare "I'm done!"
Seems that Nickels was assigned a project back in late February. It is due on March 9th.
Now, between the 23rd of the month of love and the 9th of the month of Ides, my duties for a school auction have picked up exponentially. I've been out-of-town for two days in Houston for reading therapy with the Hooman. And this past weekend was Dad's wedding, with a gob of good German people in town to entertain.*
When, in Sam Hill, did I discover that sweet Nickels had received information about this project? Yes, you guessed it, when I was going through his backpack to find missing plastic food containers from his lunch sack. This past Thursday. The assignment sheet was in a big, crumpled ball at the bottom of the pack.
I panicked. Immediately we headed out to big-box office supply store and big-box craft store and picked up the necessary supplies. And when we arrived home, the complaining began. "Do I HAVE TO do more than this?", said with a side of WHINE, GRIPE and MOAN.
THIS was gluing together the two foam boards and writing his name at the top. HARD WORK, people. Sprain-inducing work. The stuff that is put in a museum and, decades later, people walk past the exhibit and shake their heads and say "Boy. Our forefathers had it TOUGH."
Mind you, I had received information from the teacher via email back in February, just when my workload was ramping up. But, at the time, my mind didn't fixate on the phrase "3-6 days to dry". It fixated on the fact that we had two whole weeks to complete this project. And the fire under my butt at the moment seemed mucho importante compared to creating a painted, clay-infused project on a big white board. And my inbox became more filled and the email drifted out of the messages I could see at a glance, and I forgot.
Yes, I'll admit it. I FORGOT.
But, cripe. It's NOT MY PROJECT!!!
In fact, more than once, since Thursday, I've emphasized the importance of the work being done over the weekend so the clay would dry. And, I went about the task of preparing the house for guests, shopping for food to feed everyone, and generally getting ready for the wedding.
So, here we are at Monday morning. Did I work like a banshee this weekend? YES. Was I preoccupied by the task at hand? YES. Did I remember the project hanging above my son's head? NO.
And now? We** have less than 48 hours to complete the whole blooming thing.
I've gone the extra mile by calling 1-800-Crayola about the long-drying clay. A wonderful Mom on the other end of the line answered my "thinking outside the box" questions: "Can I dry the project in the oven?" Sure. If you want to burn the house down.*** "Can I use bakery-grade dye to color the clay, so we can avoid the whole 3-6 days of drying time before we paint?". Sorry. Haven't tested that. You could TRY it.****
So, I ended the conversation by laughing with the customer service rep about the lessons our kids are learning as they grow and mature. Even though she wasn't help in a practical sense for this project, it just helped to know someone out there also has irresponsible kids.*****
This afternoon? Nickels is going to be up to his rump in foam board, clay and whatever else he needs to complete the first stage of the work.
And I'm going to figure out which room has the best ventilation so this thing will dry in the quickest time possible.
Because, while I'm willing to participate in the little things, I don't want to be the Mom who is calling my son in his dorm room asking "Did you finish your biology project? You know, it's due in a couple of days."
Maybe this is the project that will be late and cause a failing grade and wake him up to his responsibilities. Yeah, it's nice to think that one late-started, fifth grade project could have that much power.
Actually, I think this project does have power. Power beyond learning, and project-management, and hard lessons.
I'm betting this will be the one that simultaneously gives me a headache, stomach ulcers and diarrhea.
*Translation: the food was less important that the booze. And there was a ton of joking about each other's best qualities and so much laughter that my new step-brother and sister-in-law felt right at home.
**WAIT! I just realized I'm using the word "WE" a whole lot more than I should here. That royal "WE" is going to become my little prince's "ME" when he gets home this afternoon and tears through this work.
***True irony here: I had a small hunk of the clay in the oven during this conversation when she said "We don't recommend you EVER put the clay in the oven or use it to make a candle holder because it is a flammable project." Let's say I moved rather quickly to remove the experiment from the oven.
****With a tone of voice that suggested, "If it works, will you call and let us know you've done the testing for us? And what the results were? We'd be mighty grateful."
****In fact, just last week, another Mom confided in me that her little sweetums had failed to inform anyone about two projects that were due in one week. The phone call from the school a day after the first project was due made for one mad Momma. And, I remember thinking, "Thank goodness we aren't having to deal with a project right now." DOH. Forty-year-old brain = no memory.