Whose Project Is It Anyway?

I can’t help myself. I have tried. But when I get the crayons, paints and glitter out, my instinct takes over. And my bad habit of taking over my kids’ school art projects comes out to play.

I realized it has been going on for years, probably since my son’s preschool Valentine’s Day exchange. I suggested we take black construction paper and cut out stars and planets and finish with “You are out of this world.” Pretty clever, no?

Well, I cut out the planets and glued all of them of 10 black sheets and wrote the greeting. My son signed his name 10 times and that was that. Same thing happened in kindergarten and first grade when he brought home projects. It was fun and I saw no harm in it.

Well, this year, my preschool daughter had a “family project” around Christmas time. She was to make her own gingerbread person with help from the family. So I helped. A lot. We spread out on the coffee table in front of a roaring fire, she and I. We placed our items to use on the table. Pattern. Check. Felt. Check. Glue stick. Check. Yarn. Check. Googly Eyes. Check. Stick on gems. Check. I had been to Michael’s Crafts that day and picked up some self-stick glittery foam as well. Check.

So sitting by the fire, we created a beautiful gingerbread princess with long flowy yellow yarn hair. She had bling — rings and earrings and a bracelet — and a crown. I cut out her dress. I cut the yarn for her hair. I made the shoes. I let my daughter decide what color gems she should have on  her crown, which I had also cut out. My daughter meticulously placed the little faceted fake gems on the sparkly crown. And when she wasn’t looking I moved them to where I wanted them to go. All in the name of “fixing” her. What? They looked better.

Well our gingerbread princess was beautiful and I was proud of myself my daughter.

Our family project was complete and we returned her to school. A few days later as we were  rushing in, I noticed all the gingerbread people hung up in the hallway. After I dropped my daughter in her class, kissed her goodbye, I went to see the wall on my way out.

Ok this is really embarrassing. I was actually mortified. Ashamed of myself.

The other gingerbread people all looked like they were done by preschoolers. But my daughter’s  — well it was clearly done with way too much help from her mother. She stood out on the wall among the other gingerbread people who were colored with crayon, had decorations and embellishments glued willy nilly. Some of the kids even cut out their own patterns. You could tell those by the ragged cut of a preschooler’s little hand in a pair of unfamiliar scissors.

Apparently family project does not mean have mom do it.

OK, got it this time.

So I thought I had learned my lesson. But then my son comes home with this book report project he has to complete. It’s called a Can Character. Take a coffee can, design it around your character, and fill the can with index card facts about him or her. Then you do a report on him. Actually a very cute way to do a book report for third graders.

My son chose Ulysses S. Grant. Did I mention he is a Civil War buff? So proud I am.

He brought home his book and sat down tonight to begin his work.

I got him paper and then went back to what I was doing in the kitchen. He was looking for crayons. I told them where to find them and went back to doing what I was doing in the kitchen, stealing looks at my son as he began his project.

“Hey mom?”

Well, that was all I needed. Before I knew what was happening I was at the table drawing my own version of General Grant and was detailing the grey in his beard when I looked at my son. He stood there, crayon in hand, watching his mother take over his school project.

“That’s good mom. Can I use that?” he asked.

“Uh, er, um. No. I was just showing you how to draw a person is all.”

This is NOT normal, is it? Am I an as yet undiscovered stage mom? Pageant Mom? Will I be that mom who yells out the answer during my son’s spelling bee?

So I backed off.

I guided my son as he drew his own. It was not bad. I “helped” him with harder parts like the ear and a wisp of Ulysses’ hair that curled just so, but for the most part it was all his.

I “suggested” he draw an American Flag on the paper as well. So I just sketched it out for him. And drew the stars. And the flag pole. And got the correct color red and blue and then gold for the stars.

Oh boy.

According to wikipedia:

Helicopter parent is a colloquial, early 21st-century term for a parent who pays extremely close attention to his or her child’s or children’s experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions

Oh, I shutter to think.

It’s just an art project. What’s the big deal?

Fine. The next time I won’t help AT ALL. I will force my husband to tie my hands behind my back so I can’t color, cut, glue, glitter, embellish. I will just sit there. I won’t say a word.

Yeah. That’s it.

Helicopter parent. As if.

Gotta run. I have flashcards to make. Er, I mean my son has flashcards to make…

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