School Projects Turn Me Into a Monster

I have a confession to make.  I hate school projects.  I have no patience for them.  They suck all the air out of me.

Fortunately, Chloe no longer requires much assistance with them. Sophie, on the other hand, will continue to bring home these assignments for the next few years.  Her current project is not particularly complicated, which makes me feel even worse because, despite its relative ease, I still couldn’t manage to rein in my bad passive/aggressive parenting instincts.

Sophie needs to turn in a report on the climate of Sweden (each child is responsible for a different country).  Not a long report, mind you.  A short summary describing the weather in Sweden with pictures.  Really, not a big deal at all.

But Sophie needs more hand-holding than her older sister and is much less interested in taking the lead on this kind of assignment.  I found some articles online that provided the information she needed to include in her report and asked her to read them.

That’s when I started to wish I was far, far away.  Sophie hemmed and hawed, claiming not to understand what she read. When I tried to explain it to her, she became frustrated. When I asked her to summarize what she learned, she threw up her hands, rolled her eyes and yelled, “I don’t know!” My exasperated tone certainly didn’t help matters. This cycle of resistance continued for what seemed like an eternity in hell until she finally settled down, resigned to her fate, and completed the task at hand.  And I ended up helping her more than I intended to because, let’s face it, these projects inevitably end up becoming the parents’ projects, too.

But here’s the thing.  After we wasted time arguing over the written portion of her project, Sophie came up with a great idea for the presentation of the pictures.  She started to put it together and showed me what she had done.  And I stepped in the shit all over again, because even though I was careful to praise her terrific idea, I had the temerity to suggest a slightly different execution.  I heard myself saying the words in a tone that was entirely unbecoming for a supportive mom, but I couldn’t stop myself.  I think I was hoping that by being a jerk Sophie would ban me forevermore from helping her with these assignments.

As I spewed the negativity I knew I should have chosen different words and used a more positive tone, but it was too late.  Sophie has a hard enough time with criticism as it is, no matter how constructive.  And she’s particularly sensitive to it when it emanates from “the rudest mom ever.”  That’d be me, folks.  And when it came to my behavior yesterday, her observation was, by all objective measures, astute.  I had turned into “Mommie Dearest” – you know, Joan Crawford as portrayed by Faye Dunaway.  If the girls ever get their hands on that movie…

I learned my lesson, at least for today.  I made a concerted effort to support Sophie as she finished her report and it went swimmingly.  Mostly because I didn’t really need to be involved, except at the end, when she requested my stapling expertise.  The Swedes would be proud of her efforts to explain their country’s climate.  As for me, I’m just going to recuse myself the next time she comes home with one of these projects – for her own sanity and mine.

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