Spending all of after school in the cloud of production being made at break neck speed by my 1st grade salamander expert, I felt like a slimy amphibian who broke off her own tail to escape being eaten. Dinner loomed, and I had no plan. My coffee hour usually spent at the kitchen table with the boys while they snacked was traded for cutting, taping, spell checking and mental acrobatics to avoid homework meltdown. Muddling through dinner without caffeine, I only burned the buns, all the colors of the food groups were technically represented and they were fed. Once the food and green tea hit my stomach, I felt the flood of exhaustion dissipate. My hubby's jokes helped too.
While cleaning up, I heard Cake's "Let Me Go." As the song went on about the girl who pleaded to be let go so she can come back to him again, I realized how true these lyrics were with me, my son and salamanders.
The animal report has been on the to do list for about a month. My mantra when I first saw the amount of work and processed expectations was to follow his lead. The slightest suggestions with him, like "Let's add your name," has resulted in outrage. So, I have to balance suggestions, remind him about respect and back off. Easier said then done when time is ticking away.
He surprised me. With careful suggestion, I was able to get my homework reluctant young man to the library to narrow down his subject from any animal in the kingdom to salamanders. The teacher did have a required outline, and packet which was a godsend. It allowed us to find focus, and I would reward him if he put in time filling in the outline every couple of days. The diorama was another after school marathon. We enjoyed our efficient trip to Michaels. Like his mother, he is inspired by fresh supplies. He dove right into construction of a salamander habitat. He couldn't even wait to make it to the table and completed the whole thing in the hallway. I breathed instead of suggesting a different location for the growing mess of discarded moss, puddles of glue and dissected ferns. I quietly picked up, biting my tongue so I didn't interrupt his creativity. Soon he was seeking me out for consultation.
At the core of our homework struggles is a difference of brain function. I am talking about adding polka dots, while he is thinking of four other fun facts. He thinks and prepares things like my husband. Quick, concise, accurate and informative on the entire subject are the hallmarks of my husband's work, and now my 1st born son's. Their confidence is almost reckless. They fill out things in marker. I, on the other hand, go slow, think up color schemes and decorations, narrow my focus so I can be as detailed as possible on just a few things. I write things in pencil and then go over it with a marker. This is where I mentally exhausted myself today. I couldn't stop myself. He was walking over to the foam board armed with a Sharpie. For the love of brand new supplies, I had to intervene.
"Stop!" I said a bit too loudly.
"Are you mad at me?" he asked.
"No, I am not mad at you. I just need to know what the plan is before we start using marker." I explained. Angry at myself, I started to walk away so I could regain my mantra.
"Wait!" he shouts. "Don't go. I want you in here. But you go so slow."
I make the connection, and see how important it is for me to trust his way and instincts even if it is different than mine. Being the amazing boy he is, he suggests a compromise. He wrote his facts on construction paper and we taped them to the board. Foam board spared, and marker utilized.
Scraping the Asian noodle vegetable medley in the trash, I re-framed my exhaustion. The poster got done, the paper written, the diorama completed and my son did a great job. I helped him gather materials, answered his questions and focused on him not the project. I don't know the grade, but I already see the results. We both learned about salamanders, and both learned to trust each other.