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.
My daughter loves to read.
I love that about her.
She’s also sneaky. When her new school sent home the fair information, she filled out the participation form and turned it in before I had a chance to say no. I would’ve said yes. It seemed like a fun project we both could enjoy.
Because I have a gift for being caught off guard, I asked several moms what I should expect, and
I read the rules, twice. As a result, I handed over the supplies to the storyboard and let her create it all by herself. She did a great job. Did it look like the ones on Pinterest? No! It looked like a seven-year-old had cut loose with a little rubber cement and a lot of creativity!
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 the 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 they pulled it off.
Another used old cardboard and upcycled it into a witch’s castle that was remarkably realistic. The kid that chose the Dr. Seuss book dressed up like a Who, and must have paid a mint for his perfectly painted Grinch storyboard.
One of my favorites donned the Pinkalicious Princess (a Reading Fair regular) accurately and masterfully hand-drawn in the center of the 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.
It was then that I noticed the tablecloths that covered ninety-nine percent of the tables present. Some were custom jobs. I saw lace, houndstooth, and tulle in different coordinating fabrics, and designs. You know, the type that requires Etsy account and advanced planning. Nobody had said a word to me about tablecloths!
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.
What you need to know about me is that I follow the rules, and when I see that other’s don’t, especially when my kids are involved, I tend to get a bit fired up. (My husband calls it bat crap crazy.)
In this situation, I felt unprepared, and that is a bad feeling for a mom who is leaving her child at a competition for judgment. I had failed her, and I was angry.
The rules were clear on “minimal help from adults”!
But I was looking at a minimal help from kids situation.
I was surrounded by CHEATERS!!!
Where are the projects done by the kids?
Why didn’t anyone warn me?
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.
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 she sure as heck didn’t free hand the most life like Grinch who stole Christmas I have ever seen outside of a movie theater. And Tommy may be the next Andy Warhol, but we all know damn well his mom constructed that castle.
And nobody said a word. Sure, eyebrows were raised. Glances were exchanged, but they looked the other way. That’s when I made a connection.
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. And he knows he cheated.
You know who else you are hurting?
Kids that don’t cheat.
Can you imagine what it feels like to be an 8-year-old kid 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-olds. 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 forty year old’s win! You are doing the right thing by allowing your child to learn through experience!
Teachers, Please, enforce the rules you already have! 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 mom project and feel embarrassed by their work in comparison.
Maybe next year you can put all the obvious Mom projects in a separate category and let them fight it out? Could be interesting.
By the way, we came out okay at the fair last year.
My daughter placed five out of twenty-five entries (due to her presentation and book knowledge.)
That’s pretty darn good.
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 this year.
All by herself.