The Parents

When the Gort started Grade 3 a few weeks ago we officially (inadvertently) hopped on the after-school homework train. It’s mostly been a few spelling words but Monday night brought a social studies assignment.

Apparently the third graders have been learning about ‘quality of life’ and they were charged with collecting images that represent ‘quality of life’, to bring to school, to fashion into a collage. Easy enough, I thought, as I pulled out a few old Vogues; offering them up to the Gort’s less-than-precise scissoring.

The homework sheet instructed parents to have an informal discussion with their child beforehand, so I did. ‘What sorts of things do you need for quality of life?’ I asked. Blank stare from my eight year old. So I rephrased. ‘What sorts of things do you need to feel happy and safe,’ I tried again.

He rattled off some specific, slightly amusing must-haves: Insulated housing. A locked house. A bed. Books. Toys. Friends. Clean water. Doctor. Medicine. Hospital. Food. Clothes. Parents.

I’ll admit I was somewhat surprised, and touched, by the nod to parents; that he would think – completely unprompted – to put us on his quality-of-life list. [Good thing they do the assignment in elementary school and not high school.] And, with the discussion portion of the assignment out of the way, we began flipping through magazines looking for corresponding  images.

I found a bunch of beds in the Restoration Hardware catalog. ‘Which one would you like,’ and he picked one and I resisted the urge to say ‘that one?! And we found beautiful food in an issue of Martha Stewart Living. We found clothes and ‘friends’ in a  J.Crew catalog. A Delta faucet with running water to represent ‘clean water’. A row of newborn babies in a hospital nursery to represent ‘hospital’. Bottles of vitamins to represent ‘medicine’. ‘Now we just need to find parents,’ I remembered and [quickly] flipped through three issues of Vogue in my quest for parents.

Unfortunately, after looking through two magazines, my only contenders were Ryan Lochte (wearing a speedo) and Karlie Kloss (wearing an evening dress) or an old image of Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson. I didn’t want the grade 3 teacher to roll her eyes and mutter ‘wishful thinking’ upon looking at my son’s collage, so I kept searching for a slightly more true-to-life version. Finally I settled for a woman with brown hair and a man with stubble.

‘Here you go,’ I pointed to the chosen image. And, instead of saying, ‘great, let me cut that out,’ he said ‘but they don’t look like you.’ And I explained that it didn’t really matter – that the ‘friends’ he had cut out didn’t look like anyone he knew either. And ditto for the bed and the house. And…..

He remained unconvinced.

And I got a little irritated because this ten-minute assignment had turned into a thirty-minute assignment and I just wanted to stop flipping through back issues of Vogue already. But the more I insisted, the more he dug his heels in and it turned into all kinds of ridiculous until, finally, undoubtedly with the aid of nonsensical threats, he cut out the parents and stuck them in the little ziploc bag with his other images.

Victory!

I thought.

Two days later, I picked him up from school. ‘I made my collage today!’ he announced triumphantly. ‘Oh yeah, how did it go?’

‘Well, I had room for all my pictures…..except for the parents. I just ran out of room.’

[Never before, in the history of collages, had seven tiny images managed to fill such a large space. Reminds me of the loaves and fishes story from the Bible.]

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