Great Expectations Gone Wrong

Fifth grade has been a huge! adjustment for Alice and, if I’m honest, for myself as well. We were told at the beginning of the year that the teachers were going to expect a new level of responsibility from the kids, and they do. Both Alice and I are still adjusting to the implications of “a new level of responsibility.”

Daniel will tell you my stress level has been maxed out since the end of August. Pretty much every Tuesday and Thursday evening, which are the nights before an at-home school day for Alice, when I go through Alice’s backpack and the lesson plans for the next day, Daniel can anticipate some type of stress related breakdown on my end.

Such breakdowns involve ranting or furiously emailing teachers and/or fellow parents, etc. or tears or just sitting and staring because I am now beyond exhausted by it all. Or even more recently, I could be found laughing like a lunatic because, even though I am certifiably half-crazed, laughing still seems slightly more appealing than poking my eye out with a fork, which is probably my next move.

I am at my wits end. End of story.

In general, my meltdowns aren’t pretty, and after three months of them, Daniel was tired of them.

One day while the kids were at school, he took me aside. After an hour of interrogation long line of carefully crafted questions, he asked me if some minuscule portion of the problem could possibly be me?

ME???? How dare he suggest such complete and total…. rubbish!

Think. Think. Think.

Then again…

Without tooting my horn too much, I was a student who enjoyed working hard to earn good grades and thus did well academically through all my schooling. Failure, or anything remotely (or even not-so-remotely) close to it, was not an option in any subject, not even in gym, which I hated with every fiber of my intensely uncoordinated body.

I was the student doing the extra credit project even though my current “A” did not need any boosting what-so-evah. I was the college kid laboring on school work for 21 hours a day for 4 weeks straight in my second year of college. I might be considered a bit of an overachiever.

Maybe I am my own problem? Maybe my expectations for fifth grade are a little too high?

* * *

Recently, Ian had to make a construction paper Christmas ball at home to take to school where it would hang above his desk for the remainder of December. He brought home eight carefully chosen Christmas cards to cut up and glue to the ball for decoration. He was very excited about this project.

He traced a large circle template on eight pieces of construction paper and asked me to cut the circles because he’s not the best scissor-er yet (possibly because his delinquent mother still hasn’t gotten him a left-handed scissors, shame on her!). I cut the circles because I knew they needed to be uniform in order to form the sphere easily.

Using a triangle template placed in the center of each circle, Ian tried to fold the circle around the triangle, leaving a triangular imprint in the middle where he would glue words or images cut from the cards. The folding proved to be a bit more than Ian could do easily, and once again, he asked for help.

The next job was cutting the cards. Ian started cutting, hacking away quite haphazardly at the cards. He would cut out the image he wanted from the card, and if it didn’t fit in the triangular space, he would quickly hack large pieces of the picture off, chopping at the picture here and there, until it raggedly fit into the space.

One such picture he had basically hacked to bits, and the image still wasn’t fitting in the triangle. I helped him re-orient the image, showed him where to to cut, and then glued on other pieces he had already cut off which now fit because we had maximized the space. The end product pleased me even if I had had to perform minor surgery in order to get everything to fit beautifully.

For the next picture, we talked about layout and came up with a plan before he started hacking. That panel looked great too.

Then Ian picked up a card with a large star on it, and he started hacking away again. “Wait. Don’t trim so much. You can do it this way or this way and fit more of the picture in your space,” I told him showing him some ideas I had.

He threw down the card and the scissors. “Fine! You do it your way!” he yelled and walked away.

I immediately realized my error. I waited a couple minutes while he scootered out his frustration in the basement and then apologized. “We’ll do it your way,” I told him.

There may have been quite a bit more coaxing to get him back to the project since he was still a bit apprehensive of his meddling mother, but in the end, he finished the ball.

His way, minus my expectations.

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