Today started predictably enough. Hearing my daughter’s voice, I arose from my slumber and opened my eyes to see a ball of spittle, precariously suspended by a single thread of saliva, superimposed on my daughter’s cheeky grin.
I whisked my head sideways to avoid the looming fate. The spittle plopped on my pillow and I made a mental note to myself to change the pillowslip.
I’ll probably forget.
I dispatch Kaelyn to check on the state Â of her brother’s rooms. She is distracted by our ginger tom, Blaster. He submits to her earnest affections and I make myself a cup of freshly ground coffee with our Rancilio.
I step outside to check on the state of things.
And stand on a dead rat.
“Eurghhh! Don’t touch that cat”, I yell back at the house. I hop from one foot to another sloshing my coffee in the process. Other than the dead rodent, things appear largely to be in order.
I make a mental note to pack away the last of the Halloween decorations including the RIP sign on the front porch.
I browse the online version of the New York Times before the kids start clamoring for breakfast. From “Our ‘Mommy’ Problem”:
“Motherhood is no longer viewed as simply a relationship with your children, a role you play at home and at school, or even a hallowed institution. Motherhood has been elevated – or perhaps demoted to the realm of lifestyle, an all encompassing identity with demands and expectations that eclipse everything else in a woman’s life”.
I laugh at this:
“The current culture demands that every mother be all in, all the time. My sister-in-law told me about a mom at her kidâ€™s elementary school who took the basic school T-shirt that everyone got and painstakingly created a beaded fringe at the bottom, replete with cinched waist and perfectly cuffed sleeves. All of the other little girls gathered around, screeching variations of â€śI want the same thing!â€ť Incredibly enough, instead of laughing in their unrealistic faces the way our parents might have, all the adults started mumbling, â€śYes, O.K., we can do that, sure, Iâ€™ll learn a challenging new craft, no problem. Tonight, of course. Weâ€™ll do it tonight.â€ť This made my sister-in-law, who was already late for work, want to teach a few people the artisanal craft of rearranging someoneâ€™s face using only your bare hands. We are outclassed at every turn. We are outspent and out-helicoptered and outnumbered. It used to be good enough just to keep your house from being coated in a thin layer of dog hair and human feces. No longer.”
“FORTY years ago, my mother and her two friends drank coffee, ate homemade cherry pie and chain-smoked their way through lively debates over whether a popular author was daringly frank or a chauvinist, while their children were expected to play nicely outside and rarely interrupt. Today, all three mothers might instead be engaged in some elaborate craft project, with each woman stopping the conversation every few seconds to open a little jar of paint or to help glue on some tiny eyes.”
I slap my head with the palm of my hand.
My son’s third grade class was given a craft project to decorate a paper scarecrow.
A MONTH ago! It’s still outstanding due to a combination of procrastination and lack of motivation.
I’m sorry, but most third grade boys are scarcely capable of coloring inside the lines let alone being able to deploy the skills required to kit outÂ a paper scarecrow using the suggested fabric and ‘other materials’.
The paper scarecrow has sat in the Homework tray for a month whilst every two days I cajole my third grader to start on his ‘Scarecrow Project’. Occasionally I weakly email my son’s teacher to say, “It’ll be in this week”.
We can’t not complete this homework project. They’ll be graded on it for their first semester report card. On one hand this is outrageous. It’s a freaking art project.
On the other hand I can see it helping teach valuable project management skills.
And cutting and pasting strengthens finger muscles for ELA (English Language Arts) This Common Core Standards jargon is everywhere these days. In my day it was known as Reading Writing and Art. Separate subjects.
The jury is out on Common Core but the curriculum has a Kumon like feel about it. There is endlessÂ repetition with fractionally different examples and mastery of one topic before proceeding to the next. Great to prevent gaps in knowledge and monitor the progress of the child’s learning but quick learners can get bored having to explain why they ‘know’ something.
“But I just KNOW,” is the oft heard phrase at our Homework table. “This SUCKS”, is another common phrase.
I’ve noticed the teachers adapt their teaching style to compensate. Some allow for extra credit. Others drop everything and take the kids to the playing field forÂ real life examples.
Regardless of the veracity of the curriculum; I realize the writing is on the wall. There is going to to be some cutting and pasting and employment of Project Management Skills. Today.
“I’m too busy to decorate a Scarecrow!” I mutter. Five children does give cause to to fill one’s day in. But I’m resigned. I Â get my cutting and pasting tools out. I ransack my brain for ideas.
Quite frankly I feel defeated.Â SeveralÂ days earlier I had looked into my son’s classroom to see what the finished product might look like. What a mistake that was! It would appear there are a lot of third graders capable of turning out perfectly decorated; blinged up paper scarecrows.
I’m dubious that a Third Grader could reliably place buttons let alone sharpie on a well appointed lop-sided scarecrow smile.
And I’ll eat my hat if my son’s classmates hemmed theÂ Â denim material adorning some of the scarecrows as dungarees.
I realize I’m a reluctant victim of the “All In”, Parenting Syndrome as per the “Our ‘Mommy’ Problem” Blog Post. Instead of handing my son some crayons and telling him to get drawing, Â I am doing his art project for him. To the best of my meagre ability. Â I don’t want my son to have the only crayon drawn Scarecrow on the classroomÂ wall and be awarded a ‘2’ for a grade.
The worst of this whole business is that I don’t have the craft skill of some of the other Mom’s. I tell myself that I’ll be learning valuable project management skills and set to work.
Axel insists that the dungarees be white. “That’s so lame I mutter”. Everyone knows Scarecrow dungarees are denim or burlap. But I guess my son has to have some input into the project so I can look his teacher in the eye.
I make a paper dungaree template. For the shirt I Â cut up an old pair of swim shorts from GAP. They are three seasons old and have a hole in the crotch. It’s about time they were retired despite the temptation to pass them onto my youngest to get another swim season from them.
I make a fatal mistake and get my son to draw in the eyes and the smile.
Scarecrow getsÂ a thin smile and three eyes.
My husband wanders past and says “that’s so cute”, about my Scarecrow. I feel vindicated. My scarecrow may not be the most polished but Hubby thinks it’s cute. Which means he thinks I’m cute. Possibly. I’m wearing my gardening clothes; cutoffs, the aforesaid hat and a deranged smile as I pickÂ through buttons for the final touches.
I place the hat I’ve stolen from a scarecrow in a neighboring garden. It’s not the first time I’ve turned to criminal acts in the name of Motherhood. Like Mob Bosses, we do what we have to do. Â As “Our ‘Mommy’ Problems” blog post notes; the perception of “Motherhood” can me erroneous and appearances can be misleading. We are people with the Mommy overlay. We have different strengths and weaknesses to meet the pressures coming from every direction.
I may not know how to hem denim but I know how to pilfer.
I throw a handful of leaves on the paper dungarees and take a picture of the finished product.