Joburg Expat: The Absolutely Worst School Project Ever (Or: Why Some Mothers Self-Medicate with Chardonnay)

September 13, 2015

The Absolutely Worst School Project Ever (Or: Why Some Mothers Self-Medicate with Chardonnay)

The scene: A beautiful Sunday morning in September, a serenely calm house, a just-poured mug of coffee, the New York Times still pristine in neat folds ready to be plucked apart and spread out.

Daughter, plodding down the stairs: "Mom, I have to build a cell replica for science class on Tuesday."

Mother, with infinite patience: "Okay. Wait... the one your sister did two years ago?"

Daughter, eyes shining: "Yes!"

Mother, cringing, because this brings back all the agony, the crying, the slamming doors preceded by All the other kids get the styrofoam ball from Michaels for $15 too! But then, with dawning realization: "It's still in the basement, you know. I kept it all this time."

Daughter, pulling a long face: "I know. I saw. It's got mold on it."

Mother, more and more hopeful: "Never mind the mold, I'll scrape it off, but you can totally just take it as is, no one will ever know! Besides, it's a new teacher this year."

Daughter, now defiant: "I don't want to cheat. I want to do my OWN project."

Mother, for once wishing this was one of the boys' projects, because they surely would embrace (if be a bit puzzled by) this wonderful opportunity to evade all the work: "But it's all there already! The modeling clay nucleus, the pipe cleaner, the ribbons...All you have to do is change the label with your name."

Daughter standing mutely, lower lip jutting out, a solitary tear rolling down her cheek.

Mother, in defeat: "Fine. But we're NOT buying another [repressed expletive] styrofoam ball for $15! You can scrape all the modeling clay and pipe cleaner and ribbon off the old project and re-use the ball."

Daughter storms off and slams door.

Mother, more loudly: "And don't come to me for help with your project!"

Daughter, the next day, having scraped all the old decorations off the styrofoam ball, a  worried look on her face: "Mom, I don't really know how to build this cell replica for science."

Cue gathering storm clouds around Mother's head, and her brain ready to explode: "You can't be [barely repressed expletive] serious?"

A few hours later, Mother and Daughter are seen in the car on their way to Michaels, Daughter happily chatting away: "I'm going to buy modeling clay and pipe cleaner and ribbon and..."

To all the 7th grade teachers out there: Do you know that the only way one can build a reasonable replica of a cell is with a styrofoam ball? Unless one wants to get knee deep into paper mache? And that styrofoam friggin' balls are going for $15 at Michaels (2 years ago, that is; for all I know, this year's edition comes to $19.99), which with its cramped aisles of  crap and sensory-assaulting stink of potpourri is a place no reasonable person should ever be sent to, not even by her worst enemy?

Whatever happened to building fun projects, like this:

Soap box car project at Dainfern College, South Africa
Please, oh Puh-leeeeease, spare us any more cell replicas. Anything involving a trip to Michaels, really. Feel free to give those kids excruciating exams on cells. The toughest exam ever, if you wish, one that makes them sweat water and blood. Feel free to give them an F if they can't remember all the parts of a cell. Do whatever you wish in that classroom, just don't make them glue together a science project which you've gotta know, just KNOW, renders the Mom with first-degree burns on both hands and requires craft and office supplies sufficient to run a small country.

And while we're at it, don't put 25 Number 2 pencils on your back-to-school shopping list. No kid will ever need 25 pencils in one school year. Unless of course they sit there breaking them in half out of pure boredom because they have to color in yet another picture of a cell. One mechanical pencil with some extra lead would be just fine, but you've banned mechanical pencils. Banned! And who do you think is going to carry around 5 3-ring binders stuffed full of 10 sheafs of wide-ruled paper in their backpack, I ask you?

Please excuse me now while I run out to buy a new supply of glue sticks. After a detour to the liquor store to replenish the much-needed self-medication supplies, also known as Chardonnay, to get me through yet another 7th grade science project.

The end product. Admittedly even more beautiful than its predecessor. Still...