Friday, 11 November 2011

All my own work

There’s a moment at school pick up time that all parents dread. Home time has begun like any other, everyone smiling awkwardly at each other as we wait for our children to be released. The door opens and a look of abject fear passes on all our faces as the teacher appears with a gargantuan junk model. Everyone is thinking the same thing, "please god don’t let that monster sculpture be coming home with me". An audible sigh of relief can be heard amongst the crowd as some poor woman attempts to balance a creation the size of a block of flats on the top of her buggy, to screaming protests from the toddler within, while older sibling, the proud sculptor, explains that its his chocolate sorting machine and has to have pride of place in the home forevermore. Everyone else smiles at her sympathetically, while thinking “thank fuck for that.”

But you’ve got to admire the kid’s creativity. And at least they made them themselves.

The trouble with school is there are far too many opportunities for parents to elbow their kids aside and flex their own creative muscles. And the most irritating thing to me is that schools allow this to go on.

There was a pumpkin carving competition a few weeks ago at school. Being new to the whole “school mum” thing, I presumed this was something for older children to enter. And given that son number one has only just turned five and can barely get out of bed without giving himself a black eye, handing him a pumpkin and a sharp carving device could only have resulted in yet another trip to A&E. So I had expected lots of crudely carved pumpkins, scary only when you consider the danger of a seven year old wielding a paring knife. Imagine my surprise to find that the majority of the entries were beautifully carved examples, which would not have looked out of place at an elaborate Autumnal wedding (I can spot a beautiful pumpkin because I have carved pumpkins for an Autumnal wedding). Surely a seven year old didn’t do that?

I am torn between feeling incredibly miffed that I hadn’t been informed that this type of thing goes on (the man and me are expert pumpkin carvers and would have thrashed the competition), and my belief that parents should not be allowed to help children with this kind of thing.

It just seems so unfair that the children of mothers like me, who believe that children’s competition entries should be all their own work, are competing against competitive mothers who wait for child to go to bed before getting out the glue gun and doing an online Hobbycraft order totalling a mortgage payment. The crafty (in both senses of the word) mums always win, leaving the kids who have entered their own creations heartbroken.

Thankfully I have yet to experience this myself but other mums have told of five year olds being given elaborate projects to do as homework. Most five year olds can barely write their own names, yet are expected to produce a project detailing the lifecycle of a volcano. But like the dedicated parents we are, most people will gamely stay up till 3am to complete a project for their child. Please tell me that the teachers in charge of our children’s early education are clever enough to be aware of this? And don’t they realise that a) having parents completing pupil’s projects is completely defeating the object of setting the task in the first place and b) parents have far better things to do that sit up half the night printing out pictures and ripping scientific explanations off Wikipedia?

On principle, I have told myself that I will never do a project or competition entry for either of my children. But when I saw those beautiful pumpkins I could feel my resolve weakening. How easy would it be to slip into competitive mum mode and show off how creative I can be with the junk modelling when I really set my mind to it? And I do love a good project. I can understand why people do it, I really can.

Yesterday I got a letter home about the Christmas Fayre, and there was an invitation to enter a homemade cake. The letter specifically said “Dear Parents” and the invitation to enter a cake did not mention children at all, so I may have found my opportunity to shine without compromising my principles. Not one to be competitive usually, I like to think I am the queen of cakes round here and this could be my chance to earn and defend my crown. There might just be a new competitive mummy in town. And I won’t be passing it off as my son’s cake, I want all the credit for this one thank you very much.


  1. Love it. So funny Beth, especially the anticipation of the junk model item when waiting for your child at hometime!

    I had the same concern when Jess wanted to do a poster for the cinema competition they do at Infants. She'd seen the film Tangled with school. She's always been a bit behind developmentally but her drawing has always been a bit above average for her age so I knew she'd do a great job. She spent an hour drawing the chameleon making it so detailed it even had tiny scales down its back. I was so proud of her and thought it was brilliant. I wrote on the back that this was done entirely by Jess I just refreshed her memory with images form the film on the laptop. When I handed it in I was shocked by the extravagant posters which I heard other children mums had done. And like you say I thought well thats it, no chance now then thats really unfair! But to my complete shock she won for her year. I was so chuffed. Grinning from ear to ear.
    So I think and really hope that the teachers do talk to the children about what they've made before making a choice on the winner.
    Have fun with the cake making ;o)

  2. Ah thanks glad you enjoyed it.

    That's great to know that your girl beat off the competition of mummy entries, well done Jess! Gives me hope for the future.

    Thanks for reading and for your comment x

  3. Omigod, I can relate. When my now-teenage son was in elementary they had to do a diorama for Flat Stanley. Yeah. Sadly, I first had to figure out what a diorama was. Next, we had to help because Junior was far too excited about using a glue gun by himself and frankly, the dog needed that protection from him. But when we got to school the morning the diorama's were due, you should have seen them. Holy cow! No way a bunch of 8 year old's did them.

    The following year, Junior had to do the California Missions (a bunch of churches that go through the state and were established by the Spanish a few hundred years ago). Our son's was not the finest example of architecture - but I can say he did most of it himself.

  4. LOL Laurie, I have often wondered what is a diorama exactly? We don't have them on this side of the pond (that I'm aware of, but it might be something I am to encounter further down the line, I shall look forward to that)

    Yeah glue guns and 8 year olds, not a great combo, even I can't be trusted with superglue, I'll stick one of my eyes shut just looking at the stuff.

    Thanks for your comment :-)

  5. LOL. A diorama is a scene - like a still life you'd see in a museum or, in this case, a shoebox. You know where they have the wax figures of cavemen making a fake fire in a museum? Apparently that's a diorama.

    Still hate Flat Stanley, tho. Hey, write a post for me, ok?

  6. Ah I see, I had always wondered because they were always making dioramas in Judy Blume books and I never knew what they meant!

    Yes I am on it, honestly!!! I've got a bit snowed under with all the DIY and Christmas planning but I am getting my head sorted this week and your post is on my list!!! :-)