Friday, May 27, 2011

Tiger Mom vs. Third-Grader: Part I, Invention Convention

Last night, Nico won the 3rd-4th-5th grade division for his school's Invention Convention with his "Boat Buddy Bath Thermometer". He built a sailboat out of balsa wood and inserted an 8-second thermometer through it so that the whole contraption would result in a floating device that could measure bath water temperature. He came up with this idea based on his daily problem of jumping into a shower that is too cold. Although his invention doesn't really work for showers, it's pretty good for baths.
I helped Nico a lot with his project, taking him to Target and JoAnn Fabric for supplies, assisting him in building his sailboat and working with him to put his display together. His poster included a bar graph of our family members' preferred bath temperatures (mine was the highest - duh, I'm Asian!). It also included an advertisement: "Upgrade your bath! Ingredients for a perfect bath: soap, bubbles, water, Boat Buddy!"

While there were some amazing inventions on display, the science teacher told us that what put Nico's project over the edge was his research plan. Yesss! I gave my husband a smug look. "See, it's all about the writing, " I explained to Vic.

Then, in re-reading Nico's research report, I saw that my first-born son had crossed out "special thanks/credits to my mom for her help". Originally, when I read over Nico's report, I was flattered that he mentioned me at all. But at Science Night, when I saw he crossed out the words in heavy, angry pencil marks, I was surprised. Nico explained, loud enough for everyone to hear, "I crossed that out after you made me mad! You said you weren't going to help anymore and that it was my project and I had to do it all by..." I cut him off, worried he was going to tell the world all about the ups and downs of our collaboration (i.e., my mood swings throughout the process). I was nervous he would describe how, in a fit of frustration and anger,  I angrily scattered all of our craft supplies across the dining room.

It was a terrible Tiger Mom moment and I knew it even as I flung pieces of balsa wood in the air. It reminded me of the time in second grade when my mom got upset at me for sulking through a weekday afternoon piano practice. I had been sitting at the piano, shoulders slumped, sighing and dawdling, listening to my friends Big Wheel down the sidewalk. Suddenly, my mom swooped in, swept up my piano books and threw them in the trash. The kitchen trash. I fished them out of a snarl of apple peels and carrot shavings, cleaned them up, taped the torn pages and sat down to practice. It was a day I will never forget and now I wonder if Nico will have a similar experience seared in his memory.

So far, Nico does not seem too scarred. He was elated when he was announced as one of the two school winners. When we got home, he bounced into the house and called my dad, who was simply delighted. Nico put him on speakerphone and it was heartwarming to hear their conversation. My dad told Nico he had a good feeling about his invention because it was a great idea and that he had worked hard on it. He asked Nico if he was happy and if he wanted to be a scientist some day. Nico said, "I think so!"

Next up: Great American SpellCheck

1 comment:

janet said...

I'm glad everyone was happy in the end. And maybe this will make the next project go a little easier?