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Parenting: The Ultimate Group Project

Editor’s note: Internet, the book I’ve been writing in my head for many years now is entitled “Nobody Told Me It Would Be Like This” and I’m writing this as a favor to those of you who, like me, might feel a bit surprised at what life throws at you.  I have zero doubt this  will be a Worldwide Bestseller of Epic Proportions. But I’m giving you a preview here, because I love you and care about your mental health.  And because I wish someone had warned me haha.

With a middle-schooler and a preschooler, I’m feeling like a semi-seasoned parenting veteran now of what could aptly be called The School-Age Years.  We’re 3/4 of the way through the fifth grade year for Jude, and in many ways, I see a huge leap of growth both physically and emotionally. He’s sailed through this first year of middle school with so much heart and hard work.  What an amazing kid he is! But. We’re also at the stage of the year where we are ALL dragging ourselves to the finish line. DRAAAAAAAAAGGING. OMG LET US SEE SUMMER BREAK NOW.

And perhaps my angst over the schoolyear has less to do with the overall busyness and go-go-go nature of this season. No, undoubtedly the worst part of all this school business is that they come home with homework. (That you already did 20 years ago. And now no longer remember how to do.) AND THEY WANT YOU TO HELP THEM.  Dearest friend, allow me to break it to you easily: you’re going to re-do fifth grade math allllll over again. Diagramming sentences? OH you betcha. Assigned reading? Mmmm hmmmm. Let us not speak about the science fair debacle.  There WILL BE TEARS.

This last week, he had another big project that was due (involving much research, an outline, a timeline, and a giant 3-panel board complete with photos, etc) . There was a book left at school the night before it was due and much angst and tears and gnashing of teeth and a tense drive back up to school at 5pm in order to retrieve said textbook.  SO MUCH ANGST.

Then, it hit me like a lightning bolt: I’ve decided that helping your school-aged kid with his homework can be summed up as One Majorly Long Group Project.

You remember group projects right? Coincidentally, the first one I can remember is from fifth grade, in which I did some science thing with Mikey S. and Jett W. The resulting memory is a distinct feeling of Major Irritation because I wanted to get a good grade, and all they wanted to do was goof off the whole time.

Spoiler alert: every group project from here on out has followed this same pattern to some extent.  Sometimes it involves that one person in the group who decides to sleep in and not show up the day of the presentation. Other times it involves everything being divvied up unfairly amongst the group. It’s incomplete work, lack of effort, blah blah blah.  Inevitably I’m the one exhibiting some kind of control freak mentality and extreme inability to delegate.

And so, I take a deep breath. And I step back. Because at the end of the day, I want him to feel capable and competent in his abilities. He can do it! He doesn’t need me to swoop in and fix it all for him. Yes, it absolutely would be 1000% easier/faster/less angsty for me to just do it for him — much like I’ve done on past group projects.

But that’s not really helping anybody in the long run, is it?  They’ve got to learn to do it on their own. And apparently, so do I still.

And so I resist my perfectionist tendencies to “pretty up” the presentation board for him (you can always tell the projects that the parents have basically done for the kid). It’s not about me clearing the road for the child. It’s about the child navigating the road for himself.

And now, some photos of Archer, who does not yet have homework – but it is COMING FOR YOU, BUDDY.  And luckily, we’ll have Jude around to help with all that math. hahahahahahahaha #goals