First Place Procrastination

No one is more surprised than Mom and Dad when their child gets a blue ribbon for something which he gave minimal effort.  At DirtNKids, anything labeled “project” — especially one which requires thought and planning, check lists and font-typing — elicits grunts and groans.  Projects, fun or no, really cut into the free time.

Why don’t kids like this stuff?  Isn’t it fun getting to think outside the box once in a while?  You know, do something you want to do?  For someone as creative as John, one would think an itch is getting scratched here.  He’s insanely gifted when it comes to “creations.”  Doubt me?  Check out his past pencil drawings.

Just this week, we were surprised to learn his art got chosen to represent the school at the district’s administration building.  A little inspiration was all he needed to get the job done.  He told me he did the whole thing in just a few minutes.  Sheesh.

2D Representation of 3D Art
2D Representation of 3D Art
3D Inspiration
3D Inspiration

He’s certainly capable, but then there’s that Procrastination Gene.  (Mine, not Dad’s.)

Last November, John already knew which hypothesis he wanted to test for a science project.  Whether or not gases can cause a ship to lose buoyancy and sink in the Bermuda Triangle has been on his mind for some time.  A keen interest in the unexplained — spontaneous human combustion, alien existence, myths and monsters — had him enthused more than I expected, this, our second year at the Science Fair (4th and 5th graders participate, 5th graders get graded).   Choosing a subject is always the hardest part, and that was already done.

When his teacher confirmed with me that, not only was it pertinent to science but interesting and unique to peers and teachers alike, the stage was set for a new kind of project: one not requiring Mom and Dad’s incessant hounding.  Hip Hip Hooray!

Put away the champagne glasses.

November came and went, followed by December’s madness, and before we knew it, John was just days shy of his deadline and he had done nothing.  It was time to light the fire.  Dad’s turn first.

With minimal persuasion, Dad and son got out all the gear needed to “test” the theory.  John dictated the process, and it all went well with superb results.  The biggest portion of the work was done, leaving only the little loose ends to tie up.

That’s when it sat and he stopped working — until the very last minute.

Every day, we would kindly mention (not hound, mind you), Have you gotten anything done on your project? and every day, we got the same I’m on it, don’t worry, there’s not much left.

Indeed, all that was left to take the report (already typed) and his findings, collect and reference his sources, crunch his results in an Excel spreadsheet, and cut-and-glue pictures and all on a presentation board.  All of this he was quite capable of doing on his own, minimal support from me.  Easy stuff, really.

When the weekend-before-the-project-was-officially-due had arrived, and it was clear this project wasn’t going to do itself, the time for Mom to get tough.

A kick in the pants is not what most kids welcome.

Moms don’t play fair.  Extracurricular activities cease.  No iPad or game play.  No bike riding.  Absolutely no dilly-dallying.  Any and all distractions are withheld until planned intervals are met, Mom’s schedule having been cleared so as to be fully available to ride your ass as long as necessary.

Dad takes the other kids out of the house, leaving plenty of quiet, uninterrupted time at home for the task at hand.  It should have been easy enough, what with him now desperate to get Mom off his back, but the whole process (for me, anyway) was more akin to sawing off a limb without anesthetic.  This boy wouldn’t budge.

(Never mind that I have to do this again with three more children, twice each.)

whole weekend slipped by as he drudged through each and every little step, Mom nipping at his heals as required.  By Sunday evening, the complete board seemed to magically appear — complete with things mixed up and glued in the wrong place, juice spilled on the title.  I was at my wit’s end.

After more than two months, the process was over, and certainly his grade would reflect the effort put in, as those were all his.  A “D” or an “F” would have been just fine by me.  But then the amazing happened.

Blue Ribbon Science Fair
Blue Ribbon Science Fair

John got a blue ribbon.   It seems many of the Science Fair projects on rotting food, battery life, sugar crystals, were hardly “outside the box” subjects.  What they didn’t know about the minute details behind his organization didn’t sway his teachers from being  impressed.  Turns out it was an outstanding project, and a job well done.

That’s life, isn’t it?  The kid gets rewarded for driving his parents bonkers for two months, and we get a few gray hairs and further behind on things we could have been doing otherwise.

Oh well.  At least we get to look forward to the day the Procrastination Gene gets passed to one of his offspring.

Smiling already.

* * *

Why is it that kids put things off?

19 thoughts on “First Place Procrastination

  1. “Mom’s schedule having been cleared so as to be fully available to ride your ass as long as necessary” HAHAHAHAHA. Well done.


  2. Ha, that would be the result! Sorry you had to push him so much. But that is awesome that he got a blue ribbon! It was a great idea and definitely not the normal project done by all the kids. So, what were the results to his findings?


    1. They were pretty conclusive! The “boats” would definitely lower first into the water (suggesting a drop in fluid density) and then be inundated by the surrounding fluid and sink. If it was really “float-y” (i.e. no ballast, not like a real life boat), then it would lay on top only until it tipped over and filled up. Fun stuff.

      Yeah, you just wait! I can only guess what the teen years are going to be like.


  3. Instant gratification and preferred stimulants are strong motivation NOT to do anything else. It’s unfortunate too, because as a procrastinator kid, I remember learning early on (about his age) that half-assed gets rewarded in this world if you’re smart enough.


  4. When I was doing projects way back when, no grown ups were involved or even aware of what I was doing. My challenge was to get it done and get a good grade, that was it. How I went about it was entirely up to me. If I got less than an A, mom wanted to know what happened and how come I didn’t apply myself. And that pretty much set the tone for the rest of my life, for better or worse.


    1. Much the same as myself, I suppose. I don’t remember ever having gotten my parents involved in one of my “projects,” save maybe buying the poster board and markers. The projects these days (I find) almost HAVE to have a parent helping to organize the child. Also being one of the Science Fair Judges (I didn’t judge my child’s, thank goodness), I could tell the difference between those done entirely by the child, from the ones helped by a parent, from the rest where it was apparent the parents practically did the whole thing.

      Thanks for your comments!


  5. Hey, Angie! What a nice thing to say. 🙂 It’s why I love having you here. Good for my ego.

    I still have no idea how it is I managed to even graduate high school, I was so lackadaisical. He apparently has a bit of what you and I had. Just hoping he procrastinates some of the “other things” we *ahem* enjoyed while skipping through and ignoring school.


  6. I am not a bit surprised, especially since it’s about science and that smarty pants gene certainly has to do with his parents. For what it’s worth, I managed to ride out mostly A’s through high school with the procrastination gene.


  7. Drives me crazy how they will put it off and put it off because they know that in the end we will make sure they get it done. I actually had to stop doing this for our oldest. He’s somewhat of a perfectionist so he hasn’t NOT completed anything yet, but he is also only in 4th grade so we will see! 🙂


    1. I always hope that perfectionist thing comes out with John, but it rarely does! He too is a perfectionist in all he does. It takes him forever to write a paper (very fastidious in his penmanship).

      He’s all too happy to just “take the zero” when he’s waited until the last minute for a project. But this one — a big portion of the overall grade — is a biggie, so it winds up being up to Mom and Dad to bring discomfort to another level, with the hope that he will try to avoid it in the future. So far, it’s not worked as we planned…

      Thanks, Bobbie for your input! We need to get together by phone soon on that home-schooling issue. Reminds me I never did type that email to you…oops. Coming soon!


  8. That’s great that he has these great ideas and talents. Being able to pull things doesn’t seem like a gift, does it? At least, to us it isn’t when we think of what could be done if a child hadn’t procrastinated. My son always flies by because he knows he can. I hate this. I want him to have to work for it. But honestly, I work well under pressure. So maybe it’s that kind of thing?


    1. I thought about that too, Karen. I also work well under pressure, but don’t exactly LIKE working under pressure, my procrastination habit having put me in that uncomfortable place more than I like to admit. We repeat, I think, because that’s who we are. I so hope it’s a good thing for John. He appears to have this too.


  9. Aw, Rachel, what a nice thing to say! So much for little ones to learn in such a short time to adulthood, I’m not sure how we landed into fully functioning adulthood ourselves. Looking forward to more surprises with the other. Here’s to more grey hairs in the upcoming months! Now I need a beer.


  10. Welcome to DirtNKids, Mothlit, and thanks for sharing your experience. Birds? Tweeting exponentially more to Led Zepplin? That’s a project I would have loved to see. Right up my alley in so many ways.

    You’re right that I’m interested in that article. Feel free to put a link to it here if you care to. Glad to have you here.


      1. You’re right! That chapter was great timing, eh? Thank you for sharing it. I particularly loved the part that took me back to my own life as a kid:

        “We also understood clearly that, during major family outings and vacations, our parents needed to enjoy themselves. They bundled us into the back of the station wagon and begged us to go into hibernation for two thousand miles, so they could finish a conversation they’d started the previous autumn.”

        Oh how I appreciate that now. Thank you for going through the trouble of sharing it.


  11. I love it! And it takes me back to my sons’ science fair projects. Frankly, I was a little pissed when my elder son’s experiment in 5th grade on his bird’s response to various musical genres didn’t garner more attention. Either the bird loved or hated Led Zeppelin because the chirping increased exponentially 🙂 Fun times.

    Your story reminds me of an essay by Barbara Kingsolver’s that I was re-visiting JUST this morning. It’s from her collection, High Tide In Tucson, titled, “Civil Disobedience at Breakfast.” It’s about children becoming their own independent selves…loosely. And I suspect you would love it.


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