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Basically, I'm The Only Mom Whose Kids Do Their Own Projects

Photograph by Twenty20

You know them. The perfectly coiffed moms who come to school pick-up wearing yoga pants that they actually did yoga in. And even though they did yoga, their blowouts are still perfectly intact. Their kids come out of school looking fresh as daisies. This in comparison to your little monsters, who leave the building with stained shirts, pants that have rips at the knees and hair that's going in every direction.

And the face? Let's not even discuss what's all over your kids' faces.

Thanks to these "Pinterest" moms, school projects have never been the same. These mothers get design inspiration and then actually do something about it. (As opposed to me. I get design inspiration from social media All. The. Time. But I rarely do anything about it.) Their kids come in with school projects that look like they belong in the Louvre. My kids come in with projects that look like they were in the Louvre after it got flooded.

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But here's the thing: I'm a mom who likes to let her kids do their own projects and discover their own creativity. I'm always so proud when they cobble together strange creations, knowing that they are exercising creativity, that they are proud of their hard work.

The projects were intricate, complicated and took a whole lot more than a glue stick and some permanent marker to accomplish.

Not everyone feels the same way. For the "100 Day Project" this year, I let my kid do his own thing. I was so proud of what he'd created, the idea he came up with. And then I gave him a permanent marker and let him do his thing. Was it perfect? No, it was not. Far from it. But the instructions specifically said that we were supposed to let our first-graders do it themselves with adult supervision, so I did just that. I let my son take the reigns while I watched and hoped that he didn't get permanent marker on my expensive yoga pants and matching sweatshirt. (Which I did not do yoga in. Which, as you might have guessed, now has permanent marker all over its sleeve.)

We left my son's project on the dining room table to dry, and after the kids went to bed, I hopped onto social media. Everyone was proudly displaying their own kids' 100 Day Projects. But what was being posted on social media? There was no way a kid did that. The projects were intricate, complicated and took a whole lot more than a glue stick and some permanent marker to accomplish.

I wondered aloud to my husband what our son might think when he saw the other projects coming in, work that had clearly been done by parents and not kids.

It made me wonder: how much should we help our kids? I immediately showed my husband the pictures I was seeing on social media, and asked him if we should tweak our son's project. Clean up the glue a little here and there. Replace the parts where he'd made a mess of the construction paper with his permanent marker. My husband insisted that we should not—he showed me the instruction sheet that clearly stated that parents should not be doing the projects for their kids.

"We wouldn't be doing it," I explained. "We'd just be making it look a little prettier."

"And what's he going to think when he wakes up and sees it?" my husband asked. "That we didn't think it was good enough?"

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My husband was right. I did think that what my child had created was good enough. I loved it. It was only when I saw what the other parents created that I began to second guess what my child had done, which was silly. I was comparing the work of a 30-something-year-old mother with that of my 6-year-old.

The next morning, we helped him wrap up his project, ready to go to school. I wondered aloud to my husband what our son might think when he saw the other projects coming in, work that had clearly been done by parents and not kids. And my husband told me to look at my son. In his face, I could see it all: he was proud of himself, at what he'd created. And my husband and I, by not interferring, had instilled that in him—pride over a job well done.

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