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Avoiding a ride on the homework helicopter

Submitted by on Friday, 18 July 2008 No Comment

I seized up in sickened horror the second I saw the sweetie in the flowery pink dress holding a mom’s hand outside Big Guy’s classroom. The gold sequins on her frock mocked me as they flashed in the morning sun, her bright smile taunting.

Dear God, it’s only Tuesday. How could that kid have finished the week’s homework assignment already? It’s not even due until Friday.

A cacophony of guilt roared in my head. Slacker mom! Why didn’t you jump on it the first night? How could you even think of letting Big Guy color his own manilla folder gingerbread man when this mom had lovingly cut a fabric triangle to fashion a dress? Don’t you love your kids? Don’t you want his first homework assignment to look as cool as his classmate’s.

I mentally slapped myself in the face and became sane again.

Of course I love my kid. And of course I want his homework to look cool — but by his standards, not mine.

I’m still not sure what got into me. I’ve always let the guys create their own art, and I have mounds of photos of paint-covered faces to prove it. For some reason, though, this project seemed too important to leave Big Guy to his own devices. It’s homework, for Pete’s sake — something I never encountered until fourth grade, by the way. What if he screws up his first assignment? He’ll never get into Stanford.

It put that whole helicopter parenting thing in perspective for me, though. He’s not even 5, and idea of him “”failing”" at his first assignment made me want to flutter overhead and make sure he did it right. I suppose even the Black Hawks of helicopter parenting have good intentions when they first go airborne. Somewhere along the line, though, good intentions morph into obsessive-compulsive disorder.

So when we got home tonight I got out the tempera and brushes and let Big Guy create his self-portrait.

Seems he sensed the project was important, too, because instead of his usual reckless slaps and smears, he brushed the paint as carefully as someone who’s not quite 5 can.

I had to tie my hands behind my back as he mixed some of his own colors, but then I remembered: His project. His way.

He finished with a squiggle of gold glitter-glue hair. That touch was his brainstorm. The scarlet face (note to self: Buy white paint to mix with the red so your kid won’t look sunburned next time) was too wet to paint over, so he scoured the craft cabinet for a solution.

His only disappointment: He had wanted the shirt to replicate the one he was wearing, but there was no gray available. Damn it, why didn’t I buy white paint?

In the end, Big Guy and project boy wore the same smile. No helicopter ride in the world would have been worth missing that.

Besides, best to get him used to doing his own homework now. I have no intention of relearning enough algebra to do it for him down the road.

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

Artwork copyright 2008 Big Guy. All rights reserved.

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