Love writes letters

Whoops! I really didn’t mean to leave a depressing post up here and then disappear, it’s just that I seem to have misplaced my Wednesday, somehow. Has anyone seen it? I’d sort of like it back. If it’s not too much trouble.

My week has largely been eaten up by one of the most terrifying beasts out there, one so huge, so imposing, that many dare not utter its name. I laugh in the face of danger, though (okay, who am I kidding—more like I yell in the face of danger), so I shall speak it loud and clear: We have been under attack from the dreaded Science Fair Project.

It was due today, and yes, OF COURSE, the assignment came home in November, and OF COURSE, it was not handled and completed in a timely manner. Because that would’ve made sense. And kept my head from exploding. And also I have no idea how to handle things like this, apparently, because I’m pretty sure the way my eye ends up twitching by deadline is NOT recommended by professionals.

Without commenting on the specifics of what happened, I will merely say that Chickadee made the decision that she wanted to do this project over the holiday break with her dad. And we all thought that was a splendid idea; they’d have a week together and it would be a good bonding experience.

And we wouldn’t have to deal with it. Score!

Except that when we got home from break she wasn’t finished. Certain segments of the project hadn’t even been started, in fact; and that meant she had less than a week to pull it all together while Otto and I bit our tongues so hard it’s a wonder we were able to say anything at all.

Not that we COULD say anything, anyway, without one of the following things happening:
1) Chickadee bursting into tears,
2) Chickadee screaming at us that
a) we didn’t UNDERSTAND,
b) it wasn’t her fault,
c) we weren’t helping her enough,
d) she was sick of being told what to do,
e) she didn’t care, anyway,
f) she was going to fail her project.

So THAT was fun.

Being the excellent mother that I am, I greeted these reactions in any of the following ways:
1) Continuing to be patient and helpful,
2) Telling her I was done being abused and she could finish on her own,
3) Yelling back.

I’m including the first item because it did happen, a couple of times, but the latter two happened a lot more often, I admit. The entire process was completely CRAZYMAKING.

Having to deal with this project while also dealing with being worried and confused about her friend wasn’t a great combination, of course. I tried to be more patient, knowing that she’s having a hard time, but there’s a limit to my patience. (It turns out that it runs right up until the point where a certain child uses up a glue stick and starts plastering her display with scotch tape with all the precision of an epileptic chimp, by the way. You’re welcome.)

We worked on it yesterday from when she got home from school until she went to bed. At one point I was here in the office on my computer and she was in the kitchen on her computer, after a particularly heated exchange. She told me she was going to send me her conclusion for me to print out. And then I received the following in my inbox:

from: Chickadee Lastname
to: Mama
date: Wed, Jan 7, 2009 at 5:55 PM
subject: Re: conclusion

I’m sorry for yelling at you this morning and a couple of minutes ago. I am just really frustrated and don’t understand what you are telling me to do.

The conclusion was attached, and I thanked her for the apology, explained what we’d just been talking about, and printed out what she needed.

Late last night she got her display board assembled, only to discover that she’d forgotten to put together any charts or graphs, and as a result she basically had a big blank spot in the center that should’ve been filled with, you know, actual DATA. It had been a VERY LONG DAY and Otto and I made the decision to tell her that we were sorry, but it was late and she was out of time and she’d simply have to make do. She hung her head and put her supplies away and went up to bed.

This morning I got up at 6:00, as I do, and stumbled into the office to check my email.

I found the following:

from: Chickadee Lastname
to: Mama
date: Thu, Jan 8, 2009 at 5:18 AM
subject: another graph

I copied the spread sheet onto a word document and last night I was measuring space with sheets of paper, and there is enough room to fit these two pages on. Please print them for me so that I can attach them before I have to go to school. This will all be over by tonight.

I think this one was a nicer apology than the first, actually, because it’s her way of saying that she realizes she’s driving me to an early grave and she’s sort of sorry about that. (Not sorry enough to stop, mind you, but sorry enough to feel a small pang of regret that she might have to learn how to use the printer herself. Whatever.)

So I printed it out, and at the eleventh hour (or maybe just while her cereal sat on the kitchen table growing soggy) she finished up her display. I made a point of telling her before she left for school that while I wasn’t very happy about the way either of us had handled this project, I was really proud of her for not giving up, and for taking the initiative to get up early and fix it.

She also left a note for Nightingale this morning, on her Caring Bridge site, signing it “Your friend, Chickadee” rather than “From, Chickadee Lastname.”

You know, I think this kiddo of mine is gonna be alright.

Happy Love Thursday, everyone. May your love find its way in the written word, somehow, even when your mouth can’t seem to manage it.


  1. Stephanie

    The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Mir. :-)

  2. Megan

    She’s going to be just fine. You however might want to count how many years of science projects are left (good news: at least for my Children, high school is the End of All Non-Voluntary Science Projects. Amen) and start the therapy/running-away-from-home fund now – you know, because yesterday’s lesson was clearly on the evils of procrastination.

    Darn it if this didn’t bring back many, many memories of my last-minute project disasters. I think I’ll go apologize to my mother now…

  3. Debbi

    I agree with Stephanie’s comment :-)

    We had a similar experience in our house last night, lots of crying from both of us but we snuggled at bedtime and the world just seemed right again.

    Happy Love Thursday to you too!

  4. exile on mom street

    “Epileptic monkey!” ROFL!

    I need to go call my parents and apologize now. My science fair projects were always group torture…

  5. Leandra

    Whenever my mom and I were having a fight, or if I needed to discuss something embarrassing, I would write her a letter. It was SOOO much easier to say what needed to be said that way. Needless to say, I think Chickie’s method of communication is brilliant (and what wouldn’t I have done for email back then!).

  6. Marissa

    I just survived the great 3rd grade book report. There were many tears, yelling, apologizing and finally snuggles and proud beaming smiles when it was over.
    It was torture…my son had to do an outline and then I’m such a mean mommy that I made him do a rough draft, edit and then a error free final version in his neatest handwriting. Of course he didn’t exactly help things by insisting on reading a book from the Mary Pope Osborne adaptation of the Odyssey series!!

  7. StephLove

    Oh my goodness, the projects. They started in with them last year in first grade. My son had five or six over the course of the year and we had a lot of moments like those you describe. There have actually been fewer projects in 2nd grade, but he’s doing one now on how language changes. It’s due at the end of the month. This is a good reminder I need to get him focused on it again. He’s had the instructions since November and works on it on and off.

    I’m glad the science project turned out okay in the end even if the process was less than ideal.

  8. momzen

    ditto what Stephanie wrote. Hang in there… My 8-year old had a “things I like” project (put stuff on a poster). he cut out pictures from magazines, then, apparently turned into an “epileptic monkey.” I know just what it looks like! :)

  9. Celeste

    Don’t you hate it when you feel like YOU care more about how well they do in school than THEY do? I get this constantly. “It’s not important.” “I don’t care.” “It doesn’t have to be neat.” My kids are in middle school, and while they are (theoretically) more capable of doing their projects (cuz they can print stuff themselves), we still have our nights and even today-it’s-due mornings of horror. It’s a fine line between micromanaging them, in which they never learn to manage their own time, and total laissez faire, in which they never get into the college of their choice.

    Congratulations on making it over this hurdle… and just think, it should be a little easier when it’s Monkey’s turn, because you will know what to expect.

  10. Flea

    Way to raise good kids, Mir. :)

  11. RuthWells

    Sometimes the rewards come when we least expect them. My parenting nadir this week was shopping for dress shoes with the 10-year-old — on deadline, if you please, for the choral concert that is TODAY. I schlepped the tired, overwrought child to 5 different stores in the mall and none carried his size. I could tell he was struggling not to fall apart in a puddle of frustration and was so proud of him for winning the battle that I bought him an Annie’s pretzel on the way out. Yes, right before dinner. He earned it.

  12. RuthWells

    PS — for dress shoes for kids in those hard-to-fit sizes. Yes way.

  13. mamalang

    Yay for no science fair at our schools!

    ANd that “it will all be over by tonight”…that is priceless.

    I do have experience with the homework at the other parents (I don’t even pretend it will get done any longer, and don’t even entertainment the idea when it comes up.) and the scotch tape, only mine was because she was too LAZY to go downstairs and get a glue stick.

    Maybe it’s the age.

  14. carolyn

    Been there (actually still there, sometimes) done that and still surviving….Its the journey, not the destination!

  15. Lori

    Aaaaaaand another thing to look forward to. Thanks for the reminder.

  16. Lisa- Domestic Accident

    Just the reminder I needed that when the parenting front seems like a total failure, it really isn’t at all. Thanks for that!

  17. ramblin red

    This is what I have to look forward to, eh? Because LMNOB and Chickadee seem to be cut from the same cloth. :sigh: the mother daughter thing is complicated, no? Good for you for knowing when enough was enough and yay for Chickadee for getting it right this morning.

  18. Dawn

    I am trying to figure out why this was required to be completed completely outside of school? At our school, in order to level the playing field, we complete all science fair projects at school. This insures that all work belongs solely to the student AND makes for a nice presentation for parents at our school exposition the end of February. The only thing students have to do at home is bring in their research (printed off the internet and library books, etc.) Everything else is done at school including the experiment so the science teacher is there to teach the proper method and trouble shoot when things do not go well. All write-ups are taught and completed in language arts. Maybe the PTA could suggest this method to the school.

  19. Camels & Chocolate

    Projects like these were designed to TORTURE PARENTS, not TEACH CHILDREN.

    I remember when I was in high school and my sister in fifth grade, and my mom had to complete a yearlong genealogy project FOR HER (and this was before the days of Google). How do teachers expect 11 year olds to track down their ancestors from 200 years prior without the use of the Internet???

  20. annette

    School projects=Satan’s snare

  21. dad

    This makes three days in a row you made me cry.

    I’m so proud!

  22. Angela

    Ah, the things I have to look forward to.

    I know how proud you are of Chickadee. And you should be.

    Fantastic job.

  23. Lucinda

    I’m beginning to think it’s a mother-daughter thing. MY son and I never go head-to-head like that. But my daughter? All the time. I’m learning a lot about grace because of it-extending grace to her, and more importantly, extending it to myself. Beautiful post.

  24. Katie in MA

    I think Chickie does an amazing job of articulating herself when she isn’t overwhelmed by her emotions. She is going to be an amazing woman when she grows up!

  25. Jenn

    Oh god . . . we are just beginning our science fair project which is due 1/29. I HATE these things. I’m not sure anyone actually learns anything except for how many gluesticks you have to use up before someone loses their s*&t

  26. FringeGirl

    I think school makes you crazier the second time around. I mean homework tortures parents! What do these teachers have against us?

  27. Half Assed Kitchen

    I never once did a Science Fair project. …Taps temple…I’m now wondering if that was by design. Smart parents, I have. Smart parents.

  28. emilie

    Delurking to say that I hope when I have children I can be half the parent you are, Mir.

  29. Jenna

    I was a difficult tween (“adolescent” back in my day…) and routinely had trouble communicating with my parents. Let’s just say that it’s a miracle that they didn’t trip me in front of traffic, and that I am alive and well enough to still occasionally mis-communicate with them now. (No, they were and are fabulous parents who tried just about anything and everything, much like yourself with Chickadee, to understand me and figure out a way to communicate better.) Once I discovered that writing out my feelings, or whatever it was I was trying to communicate, in letter form to one or both of my parents, the stress and the volume of our conversations shifted significantly for the better. Maybe you two are on to something similar…

  30. Scottsdale Girl

    My mom and I wrote letters ALL THE TIME to each other.

    Her’s were of the “To Do List” kind

    Mine were of the “Sorry I lost my shit for no reason” Variety

    Which reminds me that I am SO VERY HAPPY to not be anywhere near the age of TWEEN right now. Even if it means “old lady hands and chicken neck” Really.

  31. MomCat

    Who needs data when there’s a heartfelt apology? :)

  32. Heather Cook

    That is awesome. How in the world did she get up at that hour??

  33. Lylah

    The fact that she worked hard to fix the problem on her own speaks volumes about her character and your parenting. I like the second email better, too…

  34. ChristieNY

    My eldest goes to kindergarten this year and I am dreading the projects and such, but it sounds like Chickadee is turning out just fine. That gives me some hope. <3

  35. Nancy R

    “This will all be over by tonight.”

    The grim determination, it cracks me up.

  36. Paula

    This reminds me of the 20 (!) years of supporting our son in his homework projects, which he was always late in and where always something went wrong, at least with his timing, the printer, the toner, the I dont’t know what else. ALWAYS! And now I know that I should have let him down for at least one time so that he would have learned that you need at least double as much time as you had presumed in the beginning. It is so hard once you really love your child to really be consequent!

  37. sheila

    Sounds like how my kids would handle it AND how I would respond. lol. I’m pretty sure we’re all like that. It’s hard to remain calm when they constantly complain, dramatize and whine. I hate science fairs. Those projects are sooooo indepth. I’m glad they’re over for my kids. But I feel sorry for you. :o(

  38. Crisanne

    We have not yet entered the land of school projects, thank God! But I know my just reward is coming as I stressed my poor dad to a frazzle with my procrastination! Oh and completely lost projects, too. He especially liked that one. Nothing like spending hours on a project and simply forgetting to turn it in! I suspect you may learn the wonder of that fun with Monkey rather than Chickie.

  39. tori

    I have a feeling your Chickadee and my daughter would be great friends. They just sound so similar all the time. Just yesterday my daughter emailed me an apology that was similar.

  40. alice

    Your kids are awesome.

    These kinds of posts about them are something I hope they’ll have access to as adults, because your love for them shines through so clearly.

  41. KSM

    My mom and I had fights like this over projects ALL OF THE TIME. But we made it through. And its definetly a mother-daughter thing. My dad has been editing my research papers for years, and we were always fine. Good luck surviving middle school – those were the worst project years!

  42. Swistle

    I LOVE her notes.

  43. Lauren

    I was about Chickadee’s age when my dad first suggested that I “get up early and finish” when I was too tired or it was too late to finish homework or some major project I had left until the last minute.

    I wish he had never told me that. It was the beginning of a long relationship with procrastination. “Oh, I can’t get up early and finish, Mom.” I remember cutting and pasting in the backseat of my mom’s car in high school, and, oh, this morning, when I created a (good) homework assignment for my sixth grade students approx. 5 minutes before they walked in the door. It’s a vicious habit that I have worked really hard to minimize, but still have to fight the “wake up early” voice in my head.

  44. Sam N

    Sounds like you have a very sweet chickadee LOL most daughters wouldn’t leave such nice notes in your inbox. =D

  45. Cele

    reading your blog gives me an idea what my mother went through. If I am an example of any sort, Chickie will turn out all right. Experience is everything.

    Oh and you’re a great mom.

  46. ~annie

    Ah, yes! The Science Fair Beast. It’s so hard not to rescue the little critters from it’s maw, isn’t it? But you did a fantastic job!

  47. Lindsay

    love DOES write letters. Good for Chickadee re Nightingale.
    Re science fairs why don’t they just cancel that crap? As if the teachers even like marking them…

  48. Jen

    I had to laugh, because those little messages from Chickadee are JUST like the ones my daughter sent (still sends!) me. She’s 18 now and I’m SO proud of the young woman she has become, despite having all the same kind of issues to face as your daughter has. In fact, when I read your blog I’m often blown away by the similarities. You’re a great mum, you know!

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