Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Motherlove, or Why I Took My Son's Project to the Fair

Today was Drop-Off Day for the County Fair. If you know what that means, congrats! You're a 4-H parent. If you don't, let me put it to you like this: Today is the day 4-H moms and dads drive their progeny to the fairgrounds to drop off the projects they've been nagging the kids about for weeks. Today's the day they finally get that mess out of the house (at least temporarily). And today's the day they worry and wonder, hoping that all the projects make it to the Fair intact.

In other words, Drop-Off Day is a pretty big day around here.

At noon today, I was silently patting myself on the back. The projects were all done. Fair tags were attached. All that remained was to deliver them to the Fair.

The first sign of a problem came as we were headed out the door. "Is this a 14 X 22 inch poster?" Boy #1 asked, holding his Casting Techniques poster out for inspection. Oh, $%$^, I thought. I knew photography projects had to be on a specially-sized piece of paper, but had no idea that posters faced a similar requirement. I'd simply handed him a regularly-sized piece of posterboard and told him to have at it.

"It'll be OK," I told him. "Load it in the car."

Well, it wasn't OK. When he attempted to check in his project at the fair, he was told he could a) submit the project as-is and receive a participation ribbon, b) cut off part of the poster to meet the size requirement or c) take it home and re-do on an appropriately-sized piece of paper. He was NOT happy about any of those options. In fact, at that point, he was determined to quit 4-H. Forever.

I should note here that we live 20 minutes from the fairgrounds. And that I'm a single mom of four kids. Who I'd just hauled to the Fair. That's a 40 -minute roundtrip. I was not looking forward to another.

Boy #1, meanwhile, was not looking forward to re-doing his project. I, meanwhile, felt more than a little guilt for this predictament, because I was the one who handed him the wrong posterboard.

At home, he grouched and groaned. I talked him through the process -- luckily, he'd saved most of material on the computer, so it was simply a matter of re-sizing and reprinting it -- and helped him crop the photos. Then, I left it up to him. If you want to do it, I told him, I'll take it back to the Fair. If not, fine.

He did, so I ended up making not one but two trips to the fairgrounds today. My question to you is, What would you have done in my shoes? We hear a lot today about the harmful effects of parents bailing their kids out of trouble. Parents who rush to school to deliver every forgotten project and lunch, the experts say, deprive their children of natural consequences. Was I a meddling, over-involved mom today, or was I a caring and supportive mom? How would you have handled the situation?


  1. Why would you treat your son any differently than you would treat your best friend, sister, or spouse? If in the same situation, most people would readily agree to help out the other loved ones in their lives. Of course you should do (and did!) the same for your son. I would readily agree to help my child. I think the "experts" call it cooperation and team building.

  2. You did the right thing. Lunches? They won't starve or they'll have hot lunch (or they'll share lunches with everyone around them!). But you wouldn't want them to hate 4-H, which is so good for them, by having one bad experience. I would have done the same thing.

  3. You were a good, supportive mom, of course.

    It's important for your son to realize that you'll be supportive of him and help him when necessary.

    Your son also needs to know that you can't/won't always "save" him. He should really appreciate what you did today.

    I'm glad your son did his project again. He seems to already know that what he does IS important and DOES matter. Many children would have simply quit and considered the entire experience to be a "waste."

  4. You let your momma's heart lead you in this situation. That same heart knows when to let him experience the natural consequences. It seems to me you met him halfway on that anyways. You realized your part in the predicament and made things available so he could finish, but let him make the decision if it was what he wanted.