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by Catherine Moy
Feb 2, 2005
Part of growing up is learning how to handle loss with
dignity. This is hard for a parent to do. Kids usually are better at it. My
12-year-old daughter, Zen, is much more grown up than I when it comes to
failure. Maybe itís because kids know they are learning, but parents feel like
they canít benefit from losing. So it becomes our mission in life to make sure
our children arenít hurt from loss.
Sometimes we cross the line, though. Itís one thing to guide a child through
trials and tribulations and quite another to morph into the No. 1 person in
charge of a childís project or interfere in a soccer play by kicking dirt on a
Take a look at childrenís projects at an open house and youíll see that a
certain mission project looks more like Frank Lloyd Wright designed it than the
average third-grader. Iíve been known to glue goats onto a model of San Carlos
Borromeo de Carmelo Mission, or tweak a graphic for an experiment on soapy
I thought I was helping; I really believed it. Then something happened that
popped the bubble that I called my brain.
Zen wanted to join a team at Holy Spirit competing in a future city competition
that aims to teach middle-schoolers about working together to engineer a city.
Children had to write an essay about why they should be on the team. Zen made
Staring in October, the three kids on her team met during lunch times, after
school and during vacation to work on their project. Their teacher advised them
to ensure they followed the guidelines, but didnít diddle with the project.
We parents stayed out of it, too. I never saw their schematics, not once did I
edit an essay, and I didnít glue one goat to the model. In fact, I never saw the
project until the day of the Northern California Regional Future City
Competition, which was held Jan. 22 at Fort Mason in San Francisco.
The first thing I noticed about the various city models was that most schools
must have hired Frank Lloyd Wrightís disciples to design them. No matter how
many goats I glued, how many elevators I wired, I never could have helped my
kidís model look as slick as these.
The Holy Spirit students looked stunned when they compared theirs to the others.
We told them this was their first year and it was a learning experience. The
children moved forward, explaining their projects to judges. A big part of their
score depended on their responses.
Following a grilling from more than a dozen judges who were engineers, the top
five projects were honored. Only the No. 1 project would move on to the national
competition in Washington. Holy Spirit didnít make the top five.
During the afternoon awards ceremony, the judges handed out several other
prestigious awards. We were overjoyed when we heard our eighth-graders, Caitlin
Humphreys, Victoria Paulson, Devin Wieser and Daniel Morgan, win a Best of Class
award. Just as our hearts returned to regular rhythms, our seventh-graders,
Thomas Keown, Mandi Moy and Jacob Perata, won the award for Most Expressive
Science teacher Syndi Piel and I screamed as our hearts once again picked up
pace. It was, indeed, a learning experience - for all of us. And that is the
story about how my goat-gluing days ended.