It happens every year.
In May, every major school project is due all in the same week. Now that Tristan is in middle school, it is worse than before and I don’t see it getting any better as he goes into high school and then off to college.
Last week, Tristan’s social studies project was due. It was on the country of Poland, where his ancestors originated. It was very last minute. He only received the assignment right before Christmas in December.
Don’t get me wrong. For the last five months he has been working on it. He’s been doing the fun stuff: research and putting together a PowerPoint presentation complete with audio for his oral report. However, forty-eight hours before the project was due, he only had the rough draft of his twenty page paper completed.
In came Mom, the professional writer, to the rescue. With the rough draft completed, I could have edited and polished it in a matter of hours, but I had visions of Tristan in graduate school. “Mom, my three-hundred page dissertation on the chemical components of the beagle nebula is due the day after tomorrow. I have the rough draft done and some really cool pictures. Can you help?”
Sorry, kid, they don’t have computers here in the nursing home.
So last weekend, Tristan and I sweated together, as mother and son, to complete his sixth-grade social studies project. By noon, he cried out, “Mom, can I have a break? I’m hungry.”
“Okay, twenty minutes.” I continued on. Three pages later, I realized that an hour had passed and Tristan was nowhere to be found. I woke up Jack, who was asleep on the sofa. “Where’s Tristan?”
“He went to Bronson’s house.”
The kid escaped!
An hour later, I tracked him down and dragged him back to the computer to teach him more about the fine art of punctuation. “Did any of your teachers ever introduce you to a comma?”
It was with a big sigh of relief that I sent Tristan off to school on Monday morning. That was over. I could now sit and relax with my own writing projects.
At three-thirty, Tristan returned home with tears in his eyes.
Language Arts: The assignment was a twenty-five page story assigned over a month ago. Tristan was excited about this project. He had been researching and writing it for the whole month. He had the twenty-five pages written—in long hand—which were now missing!
When was this story due? Wednesday!
Unfortunately, Mom had her own deadline. So I told Tristan to start typing and when he got home the next day he could dictate what he didn’t have done to me and we’d get it done.
Before he went to bed, I asked Tristan how many pages had he typed: A whole three pages!
What had the kid been doing since he got home from school? Researching a speech to text software to help him finish the project. “Mom, can I download it onto my computer?”
I bristled. That’s cheating!
“How?” Tristan wanted to know.
It was cheating the same way word processing was to the electric typewriters, and electric typewriters were to manual typewriters, and manual typewriters were to the pen.
Tristan failed to see my logic. The next day, as soon as he got home from school, he downloaded a freeware of a speech to text program. While he dictated his story to his laptop, I fumed in the kitchen.
Where was this free download when he was sobbing over his missing pages? Was it able to give him the benefit of its life experience and advice directly from the bottom of its heart? Was it going to give him a hug and an “atta boy” when he brought home his “A”? Did this free download even care enough about Tristan to brag about him on its blog?
How dare he replace ME with a free download?
By dinner, Tristan had printed up his story and presented it to me to review. It had a thrilling beginning, an intriguing plot, and a cliffhanger ending. Unfortunately it also had no capital letters, periods, commas, or paragraph breaks. This, I firmly believe, his language arts teacher would want him to use.
“Where’s Tristan?” I asked Jack when he came to the dinner table.
“He went to James’ house.”
So, I went in search of Tristan and dragged him back to his computer where I sat on him until he finished his story, after which we celebrated with hot fudge sundaes.
There are some things you just can’t replace with a free download.

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