jade in the parke

Friday, February 21, 2014

Musings on science fairs, parenting fails and the lure to compare? Comments welcome!

UPDATE: The creator of this poster has responded. Check out her views on my blog HERE & was picked up by the Huffington Post Parents HERE

So here's what got me laughing, reading, or wasting time on the interwebs for the last little bit of time:

aka The Measure of the Parents' Ability to Plan in Advance & To Be Organized to Actually Get the Mold Growing in time, etc.
(Click on the picture to read the original Huffington Post article that came out in February)

My first thought was, "Yes!"
The second thought brought laughter & "I thought this was just us".
Isn't that what makes something hilarious? Or a meme go viral?
Life's little hi jinks brought forth in truth with a dash of sarcasm and in community so we can say a collective, 
"Amen. Preach."

So, I guess all over America, in little towns, pre-planned communities, great metropolis centers, there is a quiet desperation that is nagging all of us in the middle of February. Not just, where is that pesky tax statement? 
But can my kid get it done? Okay, let's be honest, can I get it done?
Kids need help and my goal is to encourage, teach, assist my child through this rite of passage like the research paper with those dratted index cards. I deeply love my children, but nothing gets me more red in the head, than the realization the week before the science fair that honey takes 3 weeks to crystallize (I actually have no idea how long it takes....yet). Or that the project chosen is too expansive and that there is no way to do "good science", i.e., the scientific method with such a vast topic. And your docile child is now a stickler for the rules, because she turned in her idea already for approval and it is too late to change.

The science fair project is more of a statement on my capability to parent and to prepare my child for the future (No, taxes aren't due April 17th). There are deadlines to be met. 
Procrastination is the steady companion, panic is our energy.
Whenever I encouraged a work session on their project, I heard moans. If I turned my back for a second, they were gone and the house became eerily quiet. Nagging, incremental steps toward the finish line and then the last flurry of activity to get 'er done adding new input to Susan Messina's statistic of parents yelling/kids crying chart.

Then, the day arrived. All is done. My hair piled up in a bun held together by a pencil, the kitchen table littered with glue guns, card stock, paint brushes, scissors and empty tape containers. Just fifteen minutes before we need to leave we realize that we are in the middle of an adhesive rebellion as graphs are popping off the board in quick succession. We left in a rush and willed the thingies to stick by some sheer force 
(I exaggerated: We ripped through our entire stock of 3M Removable wall poster strips in 3 minutes).

We show up at the fair:  A tri-fold display board in the trunk, flying high on coffee, bleary eyed, and thankful that IT IS FINISHED. A father passed me as I entered, smiling with gritted teeth, "I am SO glad today is the Science Fair", not that he is psyched to be here, but relieved that the stress is finally going to be over. Another mom and I actually jumped up as we high fived saying, "We did it!" with as much enthusiasm as two basketball players in the Final Four. 
Yup, WE DID it. 

As I looked at other kids' projects displayed on banquet tables in unending rows, I had to fight the inner critic that said, 
"Their parents MUST have helped them!"

Oh, the need to compare ourselves. 
Vacillating between, "How did they do that?", "I am so inadequate"
and the opposite extreme:
"I guess they just procrastinated. My child's looks really nice (Code word: Professional)."
What about the science fair brings this out in us?
Ladies and gents, the yuck is already there in our hearts. 
But for the grace of God, go I. 
You are just as needy as I am, even if you have your ducks in a row. 
If you struggle with trying to measure up or feeling just a tiny bit arrogant that you got it together.
That desire to compare is a voice from the basement or the pit of hell as I affectionately call it. 
This is the struggle with sin for suburban parents: 
We compare our insides with others' outsides. 
We need to be rescued from...ourselves. 
So, when the whispers of inadequacy or the judgment of others' messy lives, start to form in your heart, what do you do? 
To whom do you turn? 
Does comparison lead to discontentment?
The science fair is the lens to show me my heart. 
Oh, yeah, and to teach the scientific method.

Let's discuss in the comments! I want to hear what you do when you start the dance of comparison.

Grace and Peace to you!

Click HERE to read the post from the creator of the this viral Science Fair poster!
The best part was seeing the children interact and explain their board to the teachers. The dedication of the staff was a loving antidote to my cynical heart.
Yep, I see that pie graph flapping in the wind.


  1. Thanks Lita. I appreciate your thoughtful response and agree wholeheartedly. As a science teacher, I have struggled the last week as that photo has been shared and re-shared over fb and must admit that I am proud of myself for not responding in haste. I feel like it is undermining of what we/I try to communicate to the students in class. The kids talk in class about the science fair and are so excited! They can't wait to make that display board and when the younger students were given an option to use a smaller version, they objected. They want to do the big board! (Of course some had no opinion and mom and dad will get the final say.) we've all been there and we know the exact struggles that you wrote of, but as ai have told my own children, not all of their thoughts need to be expressed. So, good luck with those projects and be sure to take lots of pictures of the finished product.

  2. Amen, sister. When I start doing the dance of comparison, I...log out of facebook. :) And Pinterest. And I stop reading the blogs of anyone, even the really good ones, because I can't be trusted not to try to emulate whatever the other moms are doing in a vain attempt to find happiness and peace in our home. Thank the Lord for His mercy!!

  3. Thank you, Mary Kay for your input! It gave my heart a jump to have my children's former science teacher comment. It was a well done program.

    Laurel, Thank you for your encouragement that I am not crazy. Great idea to unplug when you start the dance of comparison!