It all starts innocently enough. Your child comes home with a bright yellow flyer sticking out of her backpack. Try as you might, that fluorescence is impossible to ignore. It's that time of year again, folks, for a special school project. Whether it’s silly sock-day, Greek Festival, or a Hawaiin-themed bake sale for the spring fling, this "creative" assignment should be "fun!"But the lighter side of school for the students is often an express pass to the dark side for their parents. Before you can blink, you've shelled out more money on organic almond flour than you've budgeted yearly for vacations, and you're cancelling plans to build The Acropolis out of popsicle sticks. Can't stop, won't stop? We've all been there.
How not to fall down the rabbit hole that starts with a lazy escalator ride down to Michael’s, and ends with a frenzied pillage of its labyrinthian lanes, hurling art supplies in your cart, back on the shelf, on the floor behind you -- all while looking for the perfect shade of green glitter glue? Some sanity savers:
1. Keep It In Perspective. “Hmmmm….his ACTs look great, he interned no less than two summers with Elana Kagan, and that international chessboxing title sure is compelling, but what on earth went wrong with that crazy hat day in 3rd grade?!?” Ah, the infamous words of no college admissions officer ever. Sure, creativity counts, but not before you know how to conjugate a verb. These years are about the basics; think times tables, not tissue paper. More flashcards, less felt.
2. What's Old Is New. If you purge your home of everything that doesn’t spark joy, one day you will find yourself trolling the web for fake dollhouse shrubbery instead of rummaging through your junk drawer to "help" create your son's dioramic masterpiece. The only surefire toss is your shoeboxes. They are a space-suck, yes, but also a liability. Don't have any handy when your kids need one for their 3D model of the Madagascar rainforest? Poof! New stilettos. It's for the sake of a school project, after all.
3. Never Start From Scratch. Like the wise words scrawled on the walls of your spin studio, fake it till you make it. Never underestimate the beauty of a two-star, 100% polyester, amazon-bought costume. Even if your child has bad eczema, or an “allergic” reaction to manufactured seams, starting with something straight out of a package is usually the safest way to go. Breaking out the sewing machine to try and replicate King George's king of hearts robe is only gonna make you that much more pissed when said robe get left backstage and donated to the winter coat drive.
4. Fake The Bake. Once you learn the under-appreciated art of creatively plating bakery-bought cookies and brownies, you’ll never turn back. Finesse them (if you must) but kid-helmed gooey-goodies made from scratch are liable to make you, and those around you, sick. Those candy-coated, frosted fudge brownies that are selling like wildfire at dismissal? Should probably come with a prescription for Tamiflu, just saying.
5. Encourage Collaboration! Partnering up is good! Anything with more than two kids is automatically a team, and any team needs a name. Coming up with a team moniker can literally take hours. Hours that would otherwise be spent laboriously devising actual science experiments that would need test tubes and bunsen burners and periodic charts and lots of other things that will test both your sanity and your wallet, like a better home insurance policy. Why try and create energy, when you can just redirect it?
6. Keep It Clean. The worst part about cooking is the mess. Your kids know this, which is why you are the one who ends up clearing off their desks every year after they make Valentine’s cards for their class, and the six other kids they actually like. They go all Tasmanian devil on the construction paper and adhesive gems – and then say they have homework to do. On the other hand, Walgreens sells them by the box alongside red and pink fun size candy -- which is not only mess-free, but the only sweet whisper the little ones really want. And they come 48 in a pack, so that ALL the kids can get one, which, come on, they all should. They've worked hard, these kids, and a little school spirit goes a long way.