I’m not sure how this happened, but we’ve become the last-minute project family. I’m not proud to admit we are the people who do science fair projects in one weekend, book reports the night before they’re due, and decorate family turkeys an hour before bedtime.
These are not good habits to start so early in our kids’ academic career. They are all still in elementary school and they already know how to make a diorama in the space of one evening, using only what they find in my sewing bin.
Even though I accept we’ve become the family who procrastinates, I’m still ashamed. Why, again, are we are scavenging through the dress-up bin the night before the Biography Parade? What else have we been doing that was so important?
We start with such good intentions. The day the teacher gives out the assignment, the kids run into the car, waving the paper and announcing their big project plans. “Let’s go straight to the craft store! I want to go to the library right away! We will do a long experiment with a complicated hypothesis!” they say.
“When’s it due?” I ask.
“Not for two weeks.”
“Oh, we have plenty of time!”
This is, perhaps, the beginning of the procrastination problem. Two weeks seems like two years. So much can happen in two weeks. Let’s prioritize. No need to rush the process. We’ll get to the library lots of times in two weeks. Let’s think about the project for a while.
Because of this flawed thinking in my own life and work, I’ve learned to only work under extreme pressure. If the deadline isn’t imminent, I can’t motivate myself to really tackle it. Even at 40, I’m still pulling all-nighters, relying on adrenaline, and working under almost constant stress.Obviously, this is not a fantastic way to approach creative work.
I’m ashamed I’m probably teaching these bad habits to my kids. One side of my brain is so embarrassed I let them do projects in one night. This will lead to them failing out of school and living with us for the next twenty years. Why can’t I get my act together?
But the other side tells me we’re too busy to spend weeks on a book report or on a styrofoam model of a cell. Crazy people do that. People who can’t put elementary school projects into proper perspective.
Or, perhaps, it’s the wise people who start projects early. It’s those who don’t want the stress of a trying to sew 100 buttons on a t-shirt the night before the 100th day of school. People who want their child to actually sleep the night before the big play, rather than staying up and memorizing lines.
Science fair season is coming up, and I really hope we can do better. Maybe this will be the year Catie can try an involved experiment with lots of steps. Maybe we could start it now. This could be the year we work on the project bit by bit for weeks—instead of one blitz during the final weekend.
Or, maybe we are who we are. Maybe we are just the family who relies on creativity more than care, pressure more than planning, and adrenaline and whatever’s lying around the playroom floor to make a project work.