A funny thing happened this past week. I just gotta tell you! Our school had a Science Night and offered an extra credit pasta bridge building contest. So, my 12-year-old Cara came home, wielding her paper with very detailed rules and regulations, all excited to enter the contest and build a pasta bridge!
I wanted to be excited for her, but once I read all the rules with things like “pasta can only be two centimeters or less wide,” and "the bridge must measure blah blah long,” and “you can only glue the pasta two layers thick,” and finally “the bridge that weighs the least and can hold the most weight will win” -- my eyes were glazed and I felt worried! There's just something about being a mom and NEEDING to help your child do their best, but I knew I was way out of my league here! I can surely cook a mean pasta dish, but build with it? Not this momma! But, we proceeded.
In a stroke of unusual luck, a longtime family friend was visiting and is the “you name it, he can build it” sort. He's not an official professional builder, but I knew he could offer some pointers. So, we signed him up to help.
We had three days to build and my job was to shop for the correct brand and type of pasta (oh yeah, I researched online “the strongest brand of pasta”) and glue. I also dug out my dusty glue gun and got it ready to fire up! Cara came up with a plan for the base of the bridge and our builder friend helped devise the best support system. Together they sat and built ... and built ... and built. It took more than four hours to complete and I kept the coffee coming!
Once the bridge was complete, we built a box and bubble wrap nest to transport it on the school bus the next day. I must admit, I was literally holding my breath waiting for a call from a shrieking Cara to say that her bridge hadn't survived the bus ride. But fortunately that call never came! It made it!
That night, we hurried to school Science Night. I sincerely hoped that her bridge would survive the movements of the bouncing, excited participants swirling around it as it sat vulnerable amongst the other noodle-based entries. I found myself standing by her bridge to guard it from the flailing, rambunctious kids around it. As I did so, I heard grumblings from other parents -- many of which had enthusiastically helped their children build, which was allowed -- who felt that some of the bridges were not “within guidelines” and that some should be "disqualified."
As I looked around, I too felt this way about some of the bridges. I realized as I guarded our entry and became secretly annoyed at the “rule breakers,” along with some other parents, that it was the parents who took this contest much more seriously than the kids, who were happily moving up and down the school hallways, hanging out with their friends -- oblivious to their disgruntled parents. Cara, as well as her classmates, popped in a few times to see if their bridges had been weight tested yet. As I stood, her guard on duty, reminding children not to touch her bridge or the other entries!
As each bridge was tested and eventually cracked under the increasing weights, the parents and kids collected their pasta pieces and moved aside. One parent requested a “retest” because he felt it hadn't been done properly the first time.
Finally, after watching nearly two hours of weight testing, Cara's bridge was up!
At this point, it had become a humorous event, because the parents realized how very competitive we were being. I lightened the mood as Cara's bridge was set into place between two tables 40 centimeters apart by saying “who says I'm competitive?” and everyone laughed, because they know my tendencies. That's not a bad thing, right? lol
As Cara's bridge was slowly loaded down with weight, I was most thrilled to see her smile get bigger and bigger each time a new weight was added and her bridge survived it! Her bridge held 6,200 grams of weight before cracking -- which was enough to win her a prize! The entire process was more fun than I had expected. It was great to interact with the other parents, to see the many interpretations of the bridge building guidelines, and to realize in the end that there were three different sets of guidelines for three different age groups. No one had “cheated” after all! We had been such silly parents!
Seeing the parents’ competitive spirits for the sake of their kids was so enjoyable! It reminded me that we are all in this parenting thing together, and it was so refreshing to see so many parents who are working so hard in life to make sure their kids have the best of everything that is possible in a given situation!
I am sure that we all had 100 other things to do that night, but it was so good to go out with a glued-up noodle contraption and support our kids, helping them bridge their hopes from dreams into reality!
Have you had an experience with your child that brings out more competitiveness in the parents than the kids?
Image via Kate Gosselin