She has a Social Studies project to finish, a project about our town's oldest Spanish mission. All 4th graders in our public school district have to do it. The project requires the kids, at their various schools, to choose one of California's missions and two do things: first, they must create a visual replica of it (model made of sugar cubes, photos on posterboard, shoebox diorama, etc.). That's the fun part. But the second part of the project requires them to... wait for it...
Write a 2 page report.
I know. Gasp. Cry. Whimper. Wilt.
My wife has already helped Mini-P do a ton of the work for this, particularly with the report part. I feel a little bad about that since I am, by trade, a bona fide Writing Teacher. Complete with a special I.D. badge. And a decoder ring. And a cool cape that I wear for when I want to jump across rooftops at night fighting grammar crime. That makes me a Resource for this sort of thing, no? Helping with the report part of the project should be my responsibility.
Saucy and I talked about it earlier this morning and agreed: since the kid has completed an outline of what to say in her report, I can now step in and
So. The three of us are sitting there in Mini-P's room, me watching as the girls pin pieces of cloth to a tiny Barbie mannequin. They're having such a nice time, playing on a square of sunlit carpet together. I really hate to bring it all crashing down. But Saucy and I agreed that when I got back from my run, that would be the time to transition into homework mode. So sad, really.
Oh well. Screw that. It's work time. And I shall make it happen. For I am The Enforcer.
Me: Hey, kiddo? In a little when you and Mommy are done, you and I will sit down and get that mission report going, ok?
Mini-P: (not even bothering to look up from her fabric pieces) Awww.
Let me stop right here and say that I know that Awww. I've heard it many times, and not just from her. I hear it from my college students every time I assign a writing task. Every. Time. They're legal adults. And they still say Awww. It's like, they're surprised when I assign an actual WRITING assignment in our WRITING class, every time.
I actually spend a lot of time imagining what my daughter will be like as a college student. Will she be like the people I teach everyday? Will she be a princess with a bedazzled cell phone that she'll refuse to put away when class starts? Will she sleep her way through classes and then look irritated when the teacher busts her for it? Will she email her teacher the night before a big project is due to ask if it's required that she use "paragraph form" in her research paper? Will she walk into her writing professor's office, having missed an important deadline, and burst into tears in front of him, saying that she's really sorry about not having her paper done on time but, you see, pledging a sorority is just soooooo stressful and time-consuming that she just couldn't concentrate, and couldn't he give her some kind of extra credit to make up for everything? Please oh please oh please, Professor?
I'll do whatever it takes to keep her from becoming any of those students. Whatever. It. Takes. And the best way I can think of is to teach responsible habits now through consistent brainwashing. And that means being firm when it's time to put away the fabric squares and writing Social Studies report. Trust me, I know how to handle procrastinators.
Me: Hey, now. There's no reason to go Awwww. It'll be easy. You've already done a ton of the work already, right? You did your research, you brainstormed what you wanted to say, and you and Mommy even made an outline
Mini-P (looking up from her fabric, brow furrowed): I know, but....
Me: We don't have to do it right now. I said in a little while. We just can't put it off until the last minute.
Mini-P: I know, that's not what I was--
Me: Because putting things off until the last minute is called what?
Mini-P (deadpan): "Procrastinating."
Me: Right. Procrastinating. And who are the people always drive Daddy crazy when they procrastinate after I ask them to do things?
Mini-P: "College Students."
Me: And what are college students, again?
Mini-P: "A plague upon our land."
Me: Exactly. So no procrastinating today, ok? You don't want to be like my students.
(Saucy is lying low, humming gently to herself, working on a fetching barbie ball gown in plaid. She's enjoying this.)
Mini-P: I wasn't going to procrastinate. That's not what's wrong.
Me: So what's wrong?
Mini-P: Why can't Mommy help me with the writing part instead of you?
Me: You don't want my help? I'm a bonafide Writing Teacher, you know. You have an actually Someone Who Knows Stuff About Writing Essays right here in your very own house.
Mini-P: I know.
Me: I know things about writing reports. Important things. Secret things that Mommy doesn't know.
Saucy tries her best not to snort.
Mini-P: I know, already.
Me: So what's the problem?
Mini-P: I know you're a writing teacher. But Mommy's smart.
Me: Well, that's true. Mommy is very smart.
Mini-P: And also she's not mean during homework time.
Me: Hey. I'm not mean... I'm just focused on you getting it done correctly.
Mini-P: It's probably because you're a teacher. Sometimes teachers have to be mean.
Yes. That is true. Sometimes, teacher have to be mean.
Mini-P: It's ok, Daddy. We're almost done here. I'll let you know when I'm ready to get started on the report.
Me: I... you... um... er... ok.
Someone just learned a valuable lesson here, but I'm not sure who.