In California, every child in the fourth grade is required to do a project on a mission. So, basically, parents all around California are elbow deep in glue and tears throughout the month of April.
I had dreaded the impending mission project for months.
My husband told me he would do the project this year. Score! It was a series of four projects. They completed the first three items quickly, but had saved the biggest project for last. This was, to build a replica of the mission assigned to the child.
They had two months to complete it. Which would have been fine, had the date not have been changed. It was originally due May 20th. This is how I found out the date had been changed:
The afternoon of May 2nd, I picked up my child from school. I noticed quite a few children leaving the grounds with elaborate mission projects in their hands. I began to grow alarmed. The dread crept from my heart and trickled down my back.
“Hey, when is your mission project due?” I asked my son.
“Oh, not until May 3rd,” he responded.
Time stood still. My voice became squeaky with terror, “That’s tomorrow.”
No response. Just big eyes staring at me from the back seat. We drove home in panicked silence.
My husband was at work and would not be getting home until long after the children’s bedtime. I was mad…
And that is all I am going to say about that. Oh, and my son was grounded…for forever.
I knew we had five hours to get some sort of mission completed. Let’s begin by holding hands and agreeing I am not good in a crisis. I found the pizza box from the night before. I began frantically ripping it apart. Oh? They had cheese and marinara tile flooring in missions? Yup, I bet you never knew that.
Once I had my base, I wracked my brain for an idea. I quickly began searching the house for materials. My husband was going to build a Lego mission with my son. I immediately scrapped that idea. I only had five hours. So, I grabbed my box of Q-tips and raced to my pizza box. As I began stacking the qtips and trying to glue them together, my children gathered around me and began mocking my idea.
“Oh, my God! What are you doing? Q-tips? Really mom?” my daughter taunted.
My son, being more invested in the project, began shaking his head. “No, mom. Just No.”
I threw the Q-tips to the side. I tore the doors to my pantry open. A bright beam of light shone down from the heavens. It landed on my three boxes of graham crackers. And all was right with the world.
I grabbed one box and began ripping it open. I started hot glueing two graham crackers together all over the table. I let these sit and dry. Then I picked them up and began glueing them together to make the walls. Yes! It worked perfectly…
I am lying.
The graham crackers disintegrated where the two ends met the glue. It was a gloppy sad mess…I am so mad! I have to write the company! How dare these treats meant to be eaten and digested by children not stand up to hot glue. The very idea.
Then a brilliant plan formed: I could make rice krispie treats! I had just enough marshmallows for two giant batches. Those would stick together and we could roll it and cut it into shape. This might be okay. I grabbed my marshmallows from the pantry. And then gasped as large stale marshmallows flew across the kitchen floor. One of my lovely children had decided to open the bag and eat a marshmallow many weeks ago. And then left the bag open. Wasn’t that kind of them? Wasn’t that lovely? The image of the beautiful marshmallow cereal oasis dissolved in my head.
Thirty minutes had passed. My head was spinning. There was only one option left… Legos. Oh, I guess there were two. But I hate cutting cardboard more than I hated the project.
I have never built a Lego.
I have never built a Lego.
I HAVE NEVER BUILT A LEGO!
I quickly realized this after every single one of my fingernails had broken off separating all of the white legos in my son’s collection. I tried to put them together for a base and the pieces would not fit together. I pulled my knees to my chest and started sobbing. How was I going to get this done? The reality hit me that I probably wasn’t. And the failure of our parenting crushed my soul with its sorrow.
My daughter stepped in. As she does. She happens to be the only capable one in the family. And I am so grateful.
“I’ll build it with him, mom,” she said.
Actually, what she really said was, “You Idiots! I’ll build it.” She gets rather frustrated with tears.
At this point, I wasn’t going to get mad at her observation. It was true. My house looked like a chimpanzee had ran rampant. I moved over so she could start.
“I will work on this until 8:00. I have to do my homework at 8:00. If I do not have the red roof started by 7:00, then you can panic.” She told me in her matter-of-fact voice.
I set off to the kitchen to make her favorite dinner. The kids worked together on that project for the next three hours. At 8:00, the roof was not on. But that was okay.
It was not the fanciest mission that ever was. It does not really look all that much like the real building. Most mission projects are ten times this size. He will be lucky to get a “C.” But I can honestly say no parent hands built this. It was the work of my two children. Regardless of what grade he receives, I am very proud of it. I am incredibly proud of my daughter for stepping up to the challenging situation. Her work on it was all that held this project together. It was all that held me together.
This little mission was built from tears, broken fingernails, sibling love, and pure frantic motivation. There never was one so beautiful.
And I am not speaking of the mission.