When I was a kid, I spent a tour of duty in the Cub Scouts. The highlight being when my brother Steve won our local Pine Wood Derby race with a chunk of wood my father insisted he build himself. Our troop went so far as to give an unflattering award for the car most clearly built by a scout’s dad. I think it was called the “You Aren’t Capable Of Re-Creating An Exact Replica Of A Porsche 917 Turbo” award.
So when we were notified that Elijah was going to participate in his school’s science fair, we made a point of making Eli do all the work himself. He’d learn self-reliance. He’d learn The Scientific Method. He’d learn his parents are lazy.
Elijah chose to answer the age-old question, “Will basil plants grow better in the freezing cold front window or the icy cold back window?”
With threats of not ever getting to watch TV again, Elijah finished his project with seconds to spare. He even drew the accompanying poster himself.
On the night of the fair, I snuck out of work and motored to Washington Elementary. From the moment I walked in, I was struck by how many kids had parents way more hands on than we are. There were beautiful Photoshopped presentations. There were experiments that made Einstein look like a moron. There was a hand-built electric guitar, for crying out loud.
I looked over at Elijah’s rotten Basil plants and illegible poster scribbles and felt a twinge of guilt. Should I have been forcing my co-workers to make a Powerpoint presentation? Should I have stolen a nuclear reactor? Should I have missed one freaking Top Chef episode to help my son?
Elijah, on the other hand, did not seem to mind his comparatively junky display. He stood between the astronaut ice cream display and potato powered clock proudly, discussing his basil findings with anyone who would listen.
I loved him so much at that moment that I wanted to buy him a Porsche 917 Turbo.