My son is in 4th grade, the year when all California students have to do the famous “Mission Project.” I had heard horror stories from friends with older children, of parents of 4th graders running crying into the street the weekend before the Mission Project was due because their children had still not started building their California mission model. Terrified to be caught in the same position, I started collecting material about California’s missions a year or so ago, including a book called California Missions Projects and Layouts thinking we’d need it for sure to build a model. We also started taking Theo to missions two years ago to familiarize him with the history and the buildings.
When we returned from winter break, the project was suddenly upon us. Because I knew it would be hard to motivate him to sit down and build something relating to California’s Spanish colonial past, I invited his friend Rodrigo to join him and build their missions together. Taking advantage of some modeling clay that Theo had saved from a trashcan in his art class (that’s my boy!), I suggested they find pictures of the missions they had been assigned and model their missions out of clay. Surprisingly, they took to the art project, squeezing and bending their clay into outer walls and buildings, and then painting the walls and planting miniature corn, trees and flowers in their mission garden. Surprisingly too, I actually managed to let them do most of the work, and today, after 3 sessions together, they completed their missions – and I have to say they look pretty good. And they were finished a week before they were due!
This afternoon, I realized that was so busy giving myself a rare pat on the back for actually doing something right as a parent, that I hadn’t decided today’s giveaway. At 6:30pm, I was in a panic and then saw the California Missions Projects and Layouts book on the dining table. Because we’d gone with the clay models, we hadn’t actually used it, but maybe someone else would. I rushed out to Theo’s school to the Little Free Library again and placed it inside, the front cover very prominently displayed. Perhaps on Monday morning, the book will offer some inspiration and relief to another parent of a 4th grader despairing at the looming Mission Project deadline.
Some mornings you wake up with a pounding headache that you know will cling to you for the whole day. You know you have it because you were up late writing an article, but you had no choice; it was due that day and you had to finish it because you have two more deadlines to meet next week and an event to organize on the weekend. As you stagger around the house pretending to be alive – showering, dressing, fixing breakfast – the throbbing in your head becomes so intense that you feel you might throw up or pass out at any minute. Then you hear the words, “Mommy, can you come and help me with this?” A simple request maybe, but all you can think is, “I just can’t. I can’t.” You’re 48 years old, you’re slow, cranky, and being eaten alive by a migraine. You can barely look after yourself, but you have a 9-year old child. Some days, it feels impossible to be a parent.
Well, that was my morning, and the day could have become really ugly if not for our friends Patty and John who live three houses from us and have an 8-year old boy, Harry, who is a good buddy of Theo’s. Patty and John are both hard-working creative professionals in the entertainment industry and, like David and me are older parents of an only child, so like us, are happy to have a companion so close by for their son. Today, the final day of a 3-week long Winter Break, we had lunch with them and they offered to take Theo for the afternoon. This may not sound out of the ordinary, but in my wretched state at the end of a 3-week school break, struggling to do my work and get him to do his homework, I felt a huge burden lifting and knots in my shoulders untangling. Theo would be happily playing with a friend – he wouldn’t need me for a few hours. I could take a break. I could even have a massage – my first in months. I almost skipped out of the house. Sometimes a gift of a couple of hours of rest is the greatest gift of all. As a thank you, I gave Patty and John my copy of 1,001 Old-Time Garden Tips, a book that I have meant to read for ages, but unlikely ever will. They have a large back yard that they have been working on for a few years and are planning on spending more time on it. The book was one I thought they might enjoy sometime when we can return the favor and help them squeeze a bit of free time out of their hectic lives too.