More Like Dio-drama.

More Like Dio-drama.

When I first had Nathan, people were coming out of the woodwork to tell me how to raise him. This generosity with advice seems to have leveled off and I’m not sure if it’s because I seemed ungrateful in the past or if there just isn’t a mother out there who knows what to do with the drama of the school-aged child.

Never have I felt so all alone as I did the day my son came home with his first diorama project.

Now, back in the day we called these shadow boxes. I remember virtually nothing from my shadow box days except that I hated them. This was due in large part to my tendencies toward Big Ideas and Poor Execution. If I stretch back into the corners of my memory I can almost recall a fuzzy image of me standing at my dining room table doing the child’s equivalent of swearing while my mother sat on the couch not helping. But that could have been any of the dumb assignments that kids get that seem to have no real reason to exist other than to teach them that life will be filled with many nonsense assignments that drive everyone crazy and to just suck it up and get them done.

The day Nathan was assigned this project, he came stomping and huffing out of school and, when I met eyes with the teacher, she gave me the he’s-your-problem-til-tomorrow look I’ve come to know so well. I asked why the grumping and he explained.

The children were going to randomly select the animal to be the topic of their project and Nathan expressed that he hoped he picked animals he knew about. The teacher said she hoped he picked something new. This offended him to the core of his being because obviously she just didn’t want him to be happy.

More to the point, I thought, was that she obviously didn’t want ME to be happy.

After a full meltdown at home, I learned the root of the problem was that he didn’t know how to do the project and if he at least knew about his animal (gorillas) then it would be easier. But now he had to learn about gorillas AND dioramas and this was all just too much for my dear little anxious one to handle.

He was given four weeks to do the assignment and every day it wasn’t completed meant a day that Nathan a) yelled at me because it wasn’t done yet, or b) cried that it wasn’t done yet. All of the teacher’s reminders, I’m sure directed to the entire class, were translated by Nathan as personal attacks on his work ethic.

Tired of all the melodrama, we gathered supplies and I guided him through his first project of this magnitude. No sitting on the couch not helping for me! I didn’t need a parenting manual to tell me what to do!

He turned in his diorama and accompanying two page report with bibliography on Tuesday, a full three days before it was due. For as pleased as he may have been to have this off his plate, I was doubly pleased to have it off mine.

After school, I asked how the day went.

“Fine, but my gorilla fell down and she wouldn’t let me take it home to fix it so now I’m going to fail just like she wanted me to all along,” he complained.

Well, okay then. The drama continues.

finished

Finished project before the gorilla fell down.

16 Responses to “More Like Dio-drama.”

  1. I hated any project that included a visual component, so feel your pain.

    • michellelongo says:

      It took me a long time to learn that what I could see in my mind could not be accomplished by my own two hands. I hate projects like this and feel like they are busy work for someone who is not interested in crafty pursuits.

  2. Awesome diodrama!! We’ve certainly had our share, and I hate to admit to you after what you’ve written, but I kind of like doing them. So send Nathan here!! But honestly I think you did a great job! Love the hanging greenery – very authentic. And really? There’s no failing in 2nd grade, right? It’s all just supposed to be fun! Fun!! Okay, next time commence with wine! :)

    • michellelongo says:

      They get number grades, so I suppose technically he could fail. It’s unlikely though since he handled all aspects of the project. Someone else (a crafty friend) suggested the hanging vines. I would not have thought of that and I don’t think Nathan would have either. It’s better than leaves cut out of paper which was what I was thinking to hang from the top. Next time I’m consulting you for design inspiration!

  3. Jenny P says:

    I like his pronouncement at the end. That kills me. Glad it’s over for you guys! Enjoy your time until your first science fair project! Those are soul crushers for sure. Great piece!

    • michellelongo says:

      I never did a science fair when I was a kid. They always looked fun on TV but I suspect I’d hate them just as much. Nathan might like that more than creating a jungle scene though. I suppose time will tell!

  4. snapsandbits says:

    Whew, it came out great! I’m ignoring the tipping over gorilla and assuming that’ll be ok.

    • michellelongo says:

      I really hope he won’t get marked down b/c of the gorilla tipping. To me that would be silly. I’m not sure when they get their grades back – after their presentation (oh yes, there’s a presentation that I didn’t mention…) I guess.

  5. I feel exactly the same as you do about school projects. I mean, who are they kidding? These are designed to test the parents, NOT the kid. And for someone who is as art-and-craft-challenged as I am, it’s HELL every weekend. The only saving grace is the spouse who manages to pull things together very well. As for Nathan, tell him I feel for him. I really do.

    • michellelongo says:

      I just hate seeing my kid frustrated. Even if I just bought the supplies and let him do all of it on his own, I’m not sure he could have. Projects like this are impossible for an 8 year old to do on their own. I feel for the kids who have no one to help. That must be so much worse.

  6. Silverleaf says:

    Ha! I always wanted to do a diorama and somehow never did. My son came home last term with a book report and had his heart set on a diorama, but I convinced him to do a book-inspired menu instead. And why? Because I knew it would be (slightly) less dramatic. At least we (I) had the choice! Your/Nathan’s diorama is fabulous, by the way! And, you know, maybe the gorilla was just tired.

    • michellelongo says:

      I much preferred a detailed report than to do something creative. I hate forced creativity. I love to write (obviously) but coming up with a “fun” way to tell about the thing I researched? No thanks. I’ll take a 20 page term paper any day!

  7. Christine says:

    Oh dear, I see what I have to look forward to. I loved these projects when I was a kid, but now? Thinking about trying to guide my son through the process? Yikes.

    I love how you managed to convey your exasperation here without extraneous bitterness. :)

    • michellelongo says:

      Bitter? Who me? Haha. I’m sure you can imagine what a pleasure I was to have in the classroom as I hemmed and hawed about these things. My poor teachers… I have to admit it was really hard to pretend to Nathan that this project was a wonderful opportunity for him to express himself creatively.

  8. Love this: “This was due in large part to my tendencies toward Big Ideas and Poor Execution.” I had/have the same issue — but I was also blessed with a F*ck It attitude towards the end result.

    I freely admit to looking forward to when my kids have to make dioramas. I know there will be drama because they will get crushed on the bus or the glue will bee too weak or too gooey — but I can’t wait to see what happens!

    • michellelongo says:

      I cared too much. I wish I didn’t. That has always been true of me.

      If Nathan had to bring a diorama on a bus, he would probably try to drop out of school. I had to carry it for him (he didn’t trust himself) and then the entire 2 block walk he asked me if it was okay. I smiled through gritted teeth that it was. Thank goodness the gorilla didn’t fall on my watch.

      Let me know how it goes with your kids :)

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