It came yesterday.
Hidden between a couple of t-shirt order forms and another fundraiser booklet was the folder I have been dreading for almost a year.
The Reading Fair info packet.
Don’t let the name fool you; the fair isn’t so equitable.
It’s isn’t always about reading either.
We learned this the hard way last year.
See, my daughter loves to read.
I love that about her.
It’s one of the things we have in common.
Because I have a gift for being caught off guard, I asked several moms what I should expect and
I read the rules, twice.
They were crystal clear. The student was to do the project with minimal help from parents.
So, I handed over the supplies to the storyboard and let my daughter create it all by herself.
She did a great job.
Did it look like the ones I’ve seen on Pinterest?
It looked like a seven-year-old had cut loose with a little rubber cement and a lot of imagination!
On Reading Fair day she was ready. Sporting a western vest, cowboy hat, and boots, and a red bandana around her neck, just like the cowboy in her book, my little Leroy Knicker was ready for action.
Since we were required to supply a card table, the school allowed parents to help set up that morning.
Let me tell you; she didn’t walk in, she strutted into the school.
Imagine our surprise when we opened the doors to the gymnasium and saw her competition.
You know that feeling you get on a roller coaster when it suddenly dips down out of nowhere, and you think you’re going to die for a second?
That’s how I felt as I looked at all the other kid’s boards. Picasso would have been impressed with some of these bad boys.
One sported foil and three different shades of craft paper to create the illusion of fire. Sounds tricky, but some how a kid in the first grade pulled it off.
Another used old cardboard and upcycled it into a witch’s castle that was remarkably realistic. What made it even more impressive was that the kid was six years old.
One of my favorites donned the Pinkalicious Princess accurately and masterfully hand-drawn in the center of the tri-fold board with a three-dimensional crown made of aluminum foil and pipe cleaners. In a shadow box.
This was the first and second-grade division? These kids can barely write in a straight line, much less accurately depict a book character three dimensionally! I was so shaken up I could hardly balance our poster board on the dirty old card table I had grabbed from our garage.
That’s when I noticed the tablecloths. I’m talking custom order jobs that perfectly coordinated with the over the top storyboards. Nobody had said a word to me about ordering a flipping tablecloth!
Was I in an alternate universe?
Seeing the panic on my daughter’s face, I whispered something about our’s looking “rustic” (dirty) on purpose, and she nodded.
Thank God for quick thinking and cowboy books.
I felt like a failure.
The rules were clear on “minimal help from adults,” yet I was looking at a minimal help from kids situation.
I was surrounded by CHEATERS!!!
And I was completely caught off guard-despite my best efforts.
I had asked at least half a dozen moms what to expect, and every single one of them down played this operation like it was no big deal!
I was angry.
I wanted answers.
Hell, I wanted justice.
But nobody was talking.
When I figured it out, I felt so dumb.
See, the Reading Fair is just another place for moms to compete.
In fact, it is the mom-petition on steroids.
Think about it.
Everyone knows who really does those boards.
Sure, little Johnny may be gifted, but we all know he sure as heck didn’t free hand the most life like Grinch who stole Christmas I have ever seen outside of a movie theater or Macy’s Day Parade! And Tommy may be the next Andy Warhol, but we all know damn well his mom built that castle.
And nobody said a word. Sure, eyebrows were raised. Glances were exchanged, but they looked the other way. That’s when I knew.
The Reading Fair is a lot like Fight Club.
What’s the first rule of Fight Club?
You do not talk about Fight Club.
The second rule of Fight Club?
You do not talk about Fight Club.
Nobody is gonna call out Johnny’s mom or Tammy’s mom. Sure, the teachers may shake their heads in disapproval, they may talk about how out of control the moms have gotten, and they may even add a division to try to keep them honest, but they will not call them out.
But I will.
Attention Crazy Mom! Step Away from your glue gun! Put away your hot knife and pay attention!
You are not in school anymore.
This is not your assignment.
You are not helping your child when you do the project for him. You are cheating.
I know you think that you are helping, but you’re not.
Look at it this way, if your kid wins for the project that YOU designed, researched, painted, cut, glittered, hot knifed, and glued, do you think he feels a real sense of achievement?
The answer is no.
He can’t be proud of the victory because it isn’t his, it’s yours.
This may be hard to hear, but you’re doing more harm than good.
You know what you are teaching your child when you do the project?
That her work isn’t good enough and she isn’t capable of doing the project by herself.
You know who else you are hurting?
Kids that do their own work.
Can you imagine what it feels like to be an 8-year-old child that has to stand by your project?
My daughter was so proud of her work until she compared it to a room full of posters done by thirty and forty-year-old mothers.
Then she felt ashamed.
That’s not ok.
Can we please stop this madness?
Mothers, stop taking over your kid’s projects. They are for a grade. You wouldn’t take a spelling test for them, would you?
Mothers, do not give in to the temptation to start taking over your kid’s stuff because you are tired of seeing the thirty-year-old’s win! You are doing the right thing by allowing your child to learn through the experience. You are laying the foundation for a self-sufficient child.
Teachers, please, enforce the rules! I understand you are in a tough spot, but if anyone can handle a crazy mom, it’s you! Do it for all the kids who have to stand by a Pinterest mom’s project and feel embarrassed by their work in comparison.
Maybe next year we can put all the “Moms Who Think They’re Helping” in a separate category and let them fight it out?
Could be interesting.
By the way, my daughter did okay at the fair last year.
She placed five out of twenty-five entries. I was told by a teacher that if she had a better board, she would have scored higher.
She earned the Honorable Mention ribbon displayed on her dresser with no help from me.
She is so proud of that ribbon.
So I will happily fill out the Reading Fair forms if she wants to do it again next year.
All by herself.