Death by a thousand paper cuts. Or really, five.
"We forgot the star," I sighed, as I spotted the rows of carefully displayed handmade paper stars across the preschool classroom, each decorated by a different child.
Did we receive the star in the mail? The one that Thalia was supposed to decorate and bring to class on the first day, the teacher asked?
It's been a while since I opened my mail.
She kindly handed me a spare star which Nate tucked into his breast pocket, no other parent the wiser. They were all buried, teary, behind camera lenses, wildly documenting their child's monumental first day of preschool too.
I walked over to the wall and examined the stars covered in scribbles and squiggles and googly eyes and haphazard drops of glitter and sequins and glue, each one a beautiful example of that particular child's three year-old heart captured at a moment in time. But one in particular stood out.
The white construction paper was covered with photocopied family photos, symmetrically arranged in amateur scrapbook fashion. There wasn't a speck of wayward rubber cement or errant glue stick, no evidence of sticky fingers or chocolatey hands. It was nearly perfect. Then as the crowning touch, at the very points of the star, the child's name was spelled out in perfect, teeny little red letters.
It was spectacular. It was inspired. It was a thing of glory. It was bullshit.
"That's cheating," I blurted out. "Totally cheating."
I am trying so hard to understand what goes through a parent's mind when you do a preschooler's art project for her--You want the teacher to know you care, that you took the assignment seriously. You want your child to stand out. You want to make a terrific first impression. Yes? No?
I'm not convinced that the intent was malicious, a transparent attempt to fool the classmates into intimidation of your own child's creative prowess. And who knows, this could be a parent I meet and spend time with and grow to love to death; then one day, after a few too many plastic cups of Chardonnay at the holiday fundraiser, I'll lean over and say so...what were you thinking doing that star for your kid?" And she'll say, "Yeah, I went a little too far. We were just so excited..."
But then, maybe she'd wonder what the heck is wrong with the parents who can't even be bothered to hand in the one stupid little assignment that the teachers asked you for before the school year began.
When Thalia and I sat down to at the coffee table last night, I told her she could do anything she wanted with her little swatch of white, five-pointed paper. She went right for a black magic marker.
I admit it would have been nice for her to show off a little. Depict her family or spell her name or draw the camel that she's been oddly obsessed with this week. Sketch a funny face or do something cool with yarn. You know, if I even had yarn around the house.
"Do you want to trade that black marker for a color one?" I urged gently. "Maybe some crayons? Some glitter? You know, we can finger paint..."
She clasped that black marker in her fingers and scribbled a big messsy mess of a rats nest of a scribbly mess. Then she grabbed her little stamp pad and stamped some blurry, inky animals around the points of the star.
"Done!" she said. And it was.