Sunday, February 19, 2012

Happy President's Day - by Jennifer Holt

It is late Sunday afternoon.  I unearth a piece of paper from a stack of bills.  President’s Day is on Wednesday, and my second grader has been assigned a project about the president Zachary Taylor.  I quickly skim over the project requirements. “Great,” I think,” a poster.  I can hand this one off to my husband.”

When it comes to homework, my husband and I have well-defined lines of responsibility.  Last week, my fifth grader thought it would be funny to ask my husband for some help with his math homework.   Normally, I help with all homework assignments that do not require artistic inspiration, but my husband could see that I was preoccupied helping our seventeen year-old with a government assignment.  I was in the middle of a rant concerning the terms “deficit spending” and “public debt” so he wisely decided to attempt the math on his own.  After ten minutes spent staring at the equation involving the addition and subtraction of fractions with different denominators, he caved and called me over with a concerned and puzzled look on his face.  As he began to express his confusion over the problem, I turned to glare at my fifth grader, who was struggling to keep a straight face.  We had just gone over the process for this type of equation and I knew that my son had it down pat.  Being the deviant and twisted child that he is, he just wanted to see my husband sweat.  I sighed in exasperation and returned to the Powers of Congress.

Projects, however, are my husband’s special area of expertise. Nothing makes Edwin more proud than watching one of the boys walk into school with a big smile as classmates and teachers “ooh” and “ah” over his (Edwin’s) latest masterpiece.  One year he built a model of a pioneer cabin complete with a shingled roof and stone chimney.  He claimed that if he had started sooner, he could have made the chimney produce smoke.  I didn’t doubt it.  On another occasion, he recreated a miniature model of Niagara Falls with a battery-operated pump that circulated water.  I knew he could handle the President’s Project.

I glance over the supplies needed for the project and begin gathering the materials for them.  I effortlessly produce some poster board, colored pencils, and a picture book about presidents.  “Easy peas-y,” I think.  Then I get to the last sentence on the project description, the dreaded words for mothers world-over.  “On President’s Day your child will come dressed up as their president.”  It adds (with an exclamation point), “This will be a fun way to learn about our presidents!”  “Oh, no,” I moan to my husband, “he has to dress up.”

As I make a mental checklist of our costume inventory, I recall that Mac once dressed up as George Washington.  My mother-in-law made the costume, and naturally it was a work of art.  I don’t exactly know when Zachary Taylor was president, but I’m thinking that presidential attire from any era works. “What sort of demonic person thinks that dressing up like a president is fun?” my husband asks.   “The project should just say, ‘Intended to create more work for parents.’  We should just send him to school dressed like a pirate.  What are they going to do, give him an F?”  And then he completes his tirade with, “I’m President Zachary Taylor, yo.  Walk the plank.”

 I shake my head and send Solon to the computer to look for information.  He enters the president’s name into the Internet search engine, and I hear my husband mutter under his breath in a pseudo-announcer voice, “Zachary Taylor, Porn Star.”  I roll my eyes.  My son prints out a picture of his president, and after the much exhausting process of pressing the print icon on the computer, he sighs and asks, “Can I take a break now?”  I grab a box of Milk Duds and say, “Yo matey, be my guest.”


  1. I just have to say as a mother of four who has thankfully moved past the years of parent homework assignments, I am still standing on my soapbox shaking my fist! I still do not understand how the "project" assigned to my 1st grader that clearly would have to be completed by the parent helps the child learn. Oh sure, there is the time spent working together with your child which includes them rolling on the floor with the cat while you labor over your project worrying that it will not be as good as the other parents. But really, cant the teacher find a way to make it more about what the child can actually, color a picture of the president... than build a 3d model of colonial times!

  2. Luckily my second grader only had to color a picture of a president and find several interesting facts about him. I'm sure there are more 'project' related fun times to come though. We did have to build a 'car' out of a medium sized moving box a few years ago! LOL!