I thought I had a few more years before the class “projects” consumed my afternoons. I thought I had a few more years before I had to introduce my daughter to the world of Photoshop. Apparently, these projects start in preschool. At this rate, in a few years, they’ll start while babies are still in the womb.
The other day at pick-up. Babyface was smiling ear-to-ear, carrying a big bag. She gave me a running hug and I almost toppled over, the contents, a medium-sized, stuffed elephant and a binder, flew out and landed on the ground. “Oh no, Mommy! Get Skipper! He might need a Band-aid!” Babyface screamed.
Was the expensive tuition, rivaling that of a state college, finally paying off? Were they supplying me with toys too, after three years? No such luck. “Mommy, we all stood up and I was picked to take Skipper home! The teacher picked me!” she yelled.
Her teacher informed me that we could keep Skipper overnight and needed to create a story about their playdate together. I immediately realized that what my daughter viewed as a fun sleepover came with homework.
Babyface is smart and creative, but she doesn’t know how to take pictures or print them on a computer. I thought, maybe I can pull out some paper and let her draw the story, telling her the letters for the sentences she chooses. That was until I saw the binder and “stories” of the other kids in her class. That was until I realized that having her draw each picture and write each word would rob her of an entire night’s sleep.
I am a perfectionist by nature. Printing and slapping on pictures with a handwritten story, simply wouldn’t suffice. I would need to take pictures all afternoon. We would need to think up a story together to connect them and I would need to find the photo paper to print them.
This would be my first attempt at not doing my daughter’s school projects for her. It would be a rite of passage. I would need to teach her how to work with me. We would need to work patiently together.
Don’t get me wrong. I love it when we do crafts together, but they’re always on my terms. If I’m feeling patient, we venture into a long project. If I’m feeling frustrated, we just color together. This project was a doozy and delivered on a day that Aunt Flow was at her heaviest.
The most difficult part: mine would have to be the best because I simply can’t settle for any less. I wish I were the parent who could just take and print the pictures, slapping them on with a glue stick. No such luck. At the end of this project, my daughter would be well versed in the world of Photoshop, I thought.
Things started off simple. I just used my iPhone and took several pictures of their afternoon together. They danced, read together and even played the piano. As we finally sat down at the computer, Babyface’s nap was looming. Her happy-go-lucky attitude had diminished. She had succumbed to the dark side. I was now Darth Vader trying to train her best Storm Trooper on how to create a layout, paste pictures and write a story. A venture that I suddenly wished Yoda had joined us for.
After several tries of explaining Photoshop to my 4-year-old, I decided to use a pre-existing template in Microsoft Word to keep both of us from having a major meltdown. We sat together for two hours and finally came up with an “acceptable” entry into the binder.
That is when I realized that my ideas of perfection would soon become non-existent based on all of the constraints. In this case, she is only four. They only gave me us one night. We would have to create the best we could.
I don’t want to be one of those parents that does their child’s science projects for them. I want Babyface to be involved. So, my new idea of perfection is seeing her stay focused on the assignment. My new idea of perfection is seeing her take pride in her work. My new idea of perfection is seeing her finish what she starts.