Science fair project. Three words that strike fear into the heart of every parent with school-aged children. How do I know this? Because my dad was the king of science fair projects—against his will, of course—and I had to listen to him bitch about all the projects he had to “help” us with over the years. Of course, now that my brother and I are grown, I think Dad secretly misses our need for his creativity and technical services, but he’d never admit it outright.
I gotta say though—he pulled off some pretty amazing projects in his day, and I have his artistic talents and well-roundedness to thank. Lots of blood, sweat and tears went into those projects—and I mean literal tears were shed over multiplication table recitations. (Did I mention patience is not his strong suit?) Mom and I often encourage Dad to mass produce some of his designs in order to make an extra buck. Since he doesn’t do anything half assed, lots of his inventions are borderline over the top, Clark Griswold style. But Dad’s adamant that he only makes one of everything because he could never part with a masterpiece after all the time involved and no one would ever pay the small fortune he would ask to make it worth his while.
As I sit here reminiscing about my school days ranging from kindergarten to twelfth grade, I recall some pretty fun (and some not-so-fun) projects ranging from a sand-covered replica of the moon crafted out of a rubber bouncy ball, a golf ball catapult and a pair of light-up spaceships crafted of PVC pipe and fittings, too many science fair projects to count, memorable homemade Halloween costumes, a dollhouse with over 600 individual roof shingles (to this day, Dad can quote the exact number he glued individually) and more. Some of those projects were award winning and others awed anyone and everyone who saw them.
Though my child is currently only 9 weeks old, I’ve already begun pondering the projects he’ll be assigned in the coming years. Jeremy and I have already discussed who’s responsible for which areas. I’ll happily call out Beau’s spelling words and practice reading with him. I’m more than thrilled to work with him in his writing endeavors and encourage any type of fine arts he chooses to take part in. I will NOT, however, be responsible for teaching him math as I still add and subtract using my fingers. The day he comes home with “a train leaves the station at X time…” word problem, I am O-U-T. That’s Jeremy’s area! My child’s only hope at learning math rests on my husband’s shoulders—as does the dreaded science fair project and anything else that requires manual labor to construct. Between Jeremy’s and my skills, I think we have got most of our academic bases covered—thank God!
I’m sure I’ll complain about all the projects we have to help with over the coming years—and every parent knows I use the word help loosely—but I know that ultimately, I’ll look back on those times together with feelings of nostalgia as my dad does now, some 30 years later. At the end of the day, no one really needs to build a replica of an Aztec village out of popsicle sticks to learn about the culture or catapult a golf ball 50 yards to grasp the laws of physics. These projects are merely assigned to teach kids skills, responsibility, creativity and perseverance (and perhaps punish the parents?). When my baby boy is grown with kids of his own someday, I hope he looks back on his time completing school projects with Mommy and Daddy with those same fond memories. Because ultimately, his time is coming, too—and payback’s a bitch!