Parenthood: February 2009 Archives

Competitive parenting

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vdaybox1.jpg I'm not sure when, but at some point in this parenting circus Chris and I started to care - wherein care means "competitive to the death" - about the little kid projects that pepper elementary education. I think it began with last year's Pinewood Derby when Chris realized that the dads would be doing about 85% of the work and no way was he going to send his kid off to the races "with some piece of crap car." So he and Liam spent hours in the basement with Chris shaving a block of wood into the body of a car and hollering at Liam for touching his power tools. They ended up with a cool car that came in third and would've taken a higher place had not the winning car weighed 2.5 ounces over the maximum weight, I heard the dads grumble.

This year Chris created what he calls "an homage to Luigi Colani" which I had to Google just then because I like dresses and makeup. I fell asleep on the sofa waiting for him and he woke me up sometime around midnight when stood in the dining room, covered with saw dust and completely beige, whispering and pointing excitedly to his alien-looking car body. He and Liam will attach weights to the car and paint it tonight.

"All the cars will be weighed this year," he said ominously. This morning when Liam saw it, he, Chris, and Ewan had an excitable conversation comprised mostly of "DUDE," "AWESOME," and "SO GONNA WIN."
Last year Liam and I attempted to wow the homeschool kids at the annual Valentine's party with a shoebox wrapped in foil with stickers and pipe cleaner taped all over it. What we didn't realize is that anytime you even remotely hint to homeschooled kids that something is a contest, they will go absolutely whole-hog, bat crap insane over it. We didn't realize this until we arrived and saw the kid with the light-up robot Valentine's box and the other elaborate boxes. Liam's pride wilted and just once I wished that homeschooled kids lived up to the dimwitted-freak stereotype so we could've had the best Valentine's box that day.

This year Ewan, the family goth, gave us the idea of a haunted house Valentine's box so we planned early and stocked up on supplies. We used the box in which an order of books arrived for the house, cut out windows, pitched the "roof," and painted everything black. We used tempura paint which reminded me of formaldehyde and all those afternoons spent in 4th period anatomy and physiology dissecting sheep, frogs, brains, and eyeballs before lunch.
I saved the cut-outs of the windows and we painted those yellow and positioned them in the house to create a more three-dimensional look. Some of them I cut in pieces and made "boards" to board up other windows. Liam created ghosts from a sticky-backed foam; Ewan helped by picking out off-season Halloween (of course) stickers.

When he walked into the Valentine's party this year the kids were all "LOOKIT LIAM'S BOX!" and a girl who he swears he doesn't have a crush on told him his box was "cool." He bragged about that for the rest of the afternoon. I had almost as much fun watching him show off all of his work as I did making the house with him. I felt redeemed from last year's hastily-wrapped foil shoebox.

I didn't have a lot of parental manpower growing up and I often felt that my shabby projects were of no comparison to the elaborate things my classmates and their parents would bring to school. I remember one project where we were supposed to build a car powered by springs and rubberbands and while other kids had their dads work with them on it my older cousin, thankfully, stepped in and helped me with mine. The car didn't go very far, but I had a completed project and was able to work with someone. To say that this doesn't fuel a bit of the motivation for me at times would be a lie. 

Chris on the other hand, is just obsessed with all things engineering and is eager to encourage in Liam a predilection for watching coma-inducing shows like "How It's Made" so he has someone with whom to geek out. Whenever Chris brings up those shows in the Tivo queue I instantly pass out from threat of boredom. Do I need to know how the plastic that wraps cheese slices are made? NO.
Haunted House Valentine's Box
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