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.
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.)
A 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.
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.
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Why is it that kids put things off?