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Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Space Race, Snow Leopard, Pokemon Annual

Project time in the National School. Second class is doing The Space Race.  Every boy was given a sheet of thick white paper that we were not allowed to fold! And now all we need to do is get ten facts to write out, cut out, and then glue onto the big page. And then theres pictures. No problem to Neily. As far as he is concerned we just “use the internet.”  Not books, the computer. Because no one is using books. Really? No one in the whole class? No. No one in the whole class. Which brought us to Wikepedia, which he wants to copy word for word from the screen.  Which is impossible because the screen is on a table too small to fit a copy aswell. And half of the information on the screen is irrelevant. And once he starts writing he realises it is “too much” too hard!” This in turn leads to rows about:
  1. using the computer at homework time. “Neily is on the computer!” “Its homework. I have to!” “He’s doing club penguin!” “He hit me!”
  2. Endless whining “I have to do my project” but not actually doing it.
  3. Looking for glue and not finding it.
  4. Looking for scissors and not finding them.
  5. I suppress an urge to scream at someone, anyone.
  6. Telling son to lay out his clean white page and get started and then watching him put it on a pool of milk, diving across the kitchen in slow motion shouting “stooooop” (also in slowed down deep quavery voice) but of course not getting there in time. And in the process stamping on a little hand that was innocently attached to a younger, quiet little boy plugged in to his Nintendo. Twenty minutes after he had been asked to turn it off and start his homework. Thus follows crying, guilt, guilt about the thought that I will do anything, anything to avoid heading to a hospital. Including letting a broken foot set badly thus leading to a lifelong limp. No! I wouldn’t really! But it did cross my mind. Neurofen, (one spoon for the injured party, one gulp for me) tears, hugs and two episodes of Simpsons later we have all recovered. And the project sheet remains blank.
  7. Lying to son that I will be able to clean milk off when he is in bed.
  8. Wishing he would just go to bed so I could get on with project myself.
  9. Ruminating on Buzz Aldrin. How did his wife feel? If only he was  just a little bit more handsome? Why don’t Irish people smile in photos like the Americans do?
  10. Endless whining to myself that I have to do my sons project but not actually doing it.
Eventually he did fall asleep and I settled at the kitchen table with the scissors, cutting out the facts I had paraphrased from the internet. I was quite proud of one of them. “Cheeto, a chimpanzee was the first hominid in space. After orbiting the earth he landed safely in Arizona, his only injury being a bruised nose.” It was relevant, mentioned an animal and ended happily. Perfect! The next day he headed off into his classroom, where a flurry of boys surrounded the desks, examining each others work in horror and or admiration and I walked home to a cup of tea and a sigh of relief. All was forgotten until later in the week when, after four or so casual enquiries about the teachers comments I was told “He asked me what a hominid was, but I didn’t know.”

It was obviously the time of year for projects as the following Monday, six year old Rowan came proudly out of his classroom with the big white sheet (don’t fold it!) and instructions to do an animal project. It was basic enough. Pick an animal and write ten facts about it. He isnt a perfectionist like his brother so he scrawled, as quickly as possible the ten facts we found online. Once again I had to convince him to paraphrase, rather than copy word for word, and luckily he cant read too well yet so as long as I kept moving the screen up and down I could convince him that the words I was “reading” were actually on the screen.  But all too soon  it was finished, pictures and all. I say “picture” in the loosest sense of the word as it was a pencil outline copy of a picture on the screen which didn’t need to be coloured in as he was a snow leopard and needed to blend in with his environment. He insisted on cutting out his lines himself and sticking them together with sellotape. I watched in agony as he hacked away with the scissors and stuck and unstuck and stuck again with the sellotape. Basically he wanted to get a project done, start to finish in the advertisement break of the Simpsons. Luckily for him there are huge add breaks on Sky TV. But still, It was a rushed job.

 After we dropped it to teacher I noticed some work on the wall outside his classroom. A few eager beavers had already finished their projects and they were displayed in the corridor. My heart sank. Each one had the ten facts typed out and pasted on a large sheet accompanied by high quality pictures. Larger sheets than the one teacher had given us. No fair! I wanted to shout, teacher didn’t give those ones! One even had a nest containing eggs pasted onto the sheet. Our little offering, with its large shaky writing and barely recognisable snow leopard (which wasn’t even coloured-in!) was incomparable to this lot. I considered asking the teacher to display it somewhere in the classroom, somewhere away from the gaze of the other critical mothers. Mothers like me.

Its competitive, this mothering game. From the first time your chubby baby claps his hands you are watching other children and gleefully noticing how they compare unfavourably in their developmental milestones. This is all great until it is your child who dosnt do everything first. Then it becomes panicked observing (please let him not be able to put on his shoes! Please let him wait for help on that climbing frame! No, up he goes, agile as a monkey. Gross motor skills bang up to date, particular strengths being balance, core strength and general showing off.) Meanwhile my little lad reclines in his buggy, thumb in mouth, waiting for me to encourage him to climb out and brave the baby swing.
As a reward for all this work, I had promised a treat to be chosen by each boy. Neily chose Skullduggery Pleasant the faceless ones. Rowan chose the Pokemon annual. So one dull Wednesday morning I headed off to the bookshop to keep my promise. Skullduggary Pleasant was on the shelf but the annual was another issue. It was February and seemingly annuals (despite their name) are only readily available at Christmas. Secondly, annuals are not really considered books by book shop people. Their response was, generally “Annuals” (puzzled look followed by recognition...oh you mean books for people who don’t really read. No, we don’t have any left since the people who only come in here at Christmastime bought them all.) And then “Pokemon?  Oh no, we never had that one in the first place.”  By the third bookshop I was asking for the Pokemon Annual in hushed tones, as if I was asking for pornography or marriage guidance counselling workbooks whilst sporting a black eye. Apologising for not asking for Roald Dahl or J K Rowling or something that is quite definitely a book. I was even offered the Roald Dahl Annual and the Harry Potter Annual which sensibly, the people who had bought annuals at Christmas time had rejected, the whole point of an annual being that its not any good if it doesn’t have a picture of a character from Nick Toons on the cover. My husband got it in a discount book shop in the end and Rowan has been poring over it ever since.

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