When Mom Does the School Project
By Wendi Aarons on October 14, 2011
When my son Sam was in kindergarten, his teacher asked each student to decorate a Valentine’s Day mailbox at home and bring it in for the class party. “Have fun and be creative!” her note said. “Parents are welcome to help!”
The day of the party, I walked into the classroom and saw that 90 percent of the children had mailboxes on their desks that looked like the objects d’art you’d find in a weird Beverly Hills art gallery. The mailboxes were made out of metal or wood and were covered in everything from decoupage and feathers to faux-painting and Swarovski crystals. One even played a lovely little song when you dropped in a card.
My kid had an empty tissue box that was covered in SpongeBob SquarePants stickers and Band-Aids.
It was at that moment that I realized when a teacher says, “Parents are welcome to help,” what some moms hear is, “Max out your credit cards at Michael’s Crafts and stay up until 3 a.m. hot gluing sequins onto 2,000 pretzel sticks, baby!!! IT’S GO TIME!!!”
In the years since that Valentine’s Day party, I’ve seen countless other school projects that were supposedly done by kids, but obviously done by mothers. I’m not sure if this phenomenon is because the children don’t want to do the projects themselves, or if the moms greedily take over because they’re RCMMs—Raging Craft Maniac Moms---and simply can’t help themselves. (I tend to think it’s the latter. But then again, I live in a neighborhood where women Bedazzle their dogs.)
The RCMMs’ fingerprints are most apparent at our school when the second graders are assigned a “community building.” This can be anything from a farm to a hospital to a Target Greatland that the kids design and execute at home “with assistance from the parents.” This year, my assistance to my younger son, Jack, came in the form of driving him to the store and buying supplies, sitting with him while he put it together and calling my husband for help when Jack accidentally glued his fingers to the dining room table and started squealing like a drunk hamster. Beyond that, I was happy to just watch him make something on his own and have fun doing it.However, once I saw all of the other Second Grade projects, it was obvious that I was one of the few parents who felt that way. Because next to Jack’s rather dog-eared, half-collapsed, but still very charming pet store were suspension bridges, football stadiums and five-story libraries made out of mini-marshmallows and nail polish. And then there was the pièce de résistance: a stunning replica of Buckingham Palace made by a boy named Ethan G. Now, I’m not saying that his mother did the whole damn thing herself, but I once saw Ethan try to eat a mozzarella stick with his nose. The odds are probably against his being a 7-year-old architectural prodigy able to construct a royal balcony out of Popsicle sticks.
I admit that I sometimes feel like I should just cave in and become a RCMM, too, because it can be painful to see how crappy your kids’ projects look next to ones done with a lot of parental involvement. I also wonder if I’m hurting my sons’ chances of getting into Harvard because I refuse to sculpt a bust of George Washington Carver out of a Duraflame log. But then I remember two things.
One: teachers aren’t idiots. They can figure out what the kids did and didn’t do themselves and will hopefully grade accordingly.
And two: I'm a total crafting disaster who once maimed herself with a pipe cleaner. Anything I make will most likely cause my kids to flunk a grade and then they'll never move out. No, they're much better off doing their projects themselves while learning to be creative.
At least that's what I told my RCMM neighbor last night while she was gluing glitter on her poodle.