A Straight “A” Parent Goes Back to School

January 25th, 2012

This weekend was Aedan’s open house at school. Basically, this consists of a chance for all the classes to show of what arts and crafts projects they’ve been working on, as well as a chance for the teachers to show how ridiculously talented and committed they are. This year we saw one classroom transformed into a zoo, another into a jungle, and yet another into a barnyard. The theme in Aedan’s classroom was “summer,” so a little milder than most, but it still had some pretty great displays.

Last week for the open house, we were assigned a family art project to build a sand castle. It could be made out of anything, it was just supposed to look like a sand castle. We took this to mean in general shape, and we gave Aedan several suggestions – including using paper cups, ice cream cones, and Legos. He, of course, chose Legos. We have some medium-sized blocks that we figured would be perfect for this project. Once we got going on it, he mostly wanted to build it himself, being the independent pain in the ass thinker that he is. Figuring it was really his art project, we let him do that, with a few helpful hints and suggestions along the way. Once he was done, we were all pretty proud of the results – especially since he’d done most of it himself.

And then we went to open house.

The rest of the sand castles were enormous, elaborate, covered in sand, using action figures to decorate, etc. I have to admit, even having seen some of the other family-kid art projects, I was shocked at these. And frustrated. And disappointed.

Because really, I’m torn about all this. I want my kid to do his own work, but I also want him to recognize that he does good work. How is he supposed to feel good about what he does when there’s no way he can compete with something that another kid’s parents did? At the same time, the competitor in me feels completely inadequate. Of course I could have made something as good as those, if I’d known what the other parents were doing. As a high-achieving student myself (okay, I might not have been all “As,” but I got damn close), it kills me a little to see all these amazing projects when we turned in something that looks so dinky compared to them.

And that’s when it hits me: We didn’t turn it in – Aedan turned it in. This isn’t about my grade or parental score or what have you; this is about him – this is his chance at school, his chance to create and learn and achieve. And I know that whatever else, he had fun building that sand castle and was just as proud of it as if he had painted the Mona Lisa. And Sean did a fantastic job of finding just the right thing to say, “We are so proud of you for working on that sand castle by yourself.”

Meanwhile, I stewed and mentally cursed the other parents and myself in my head. Because THAT’S WHAT I DO, PEOPLE. It’s a scary place in there.

Have you experienced something similar? What are your thoughts on the whole parents-doing-their-kid’s-work dilemma?