Movie-Style Drama, Parental Guidance Prohibited

[originally appeared in “Scheir Madness,” in The Dover Post, 1/28/09]

Last night I watched the 2007 film “No Country for Old Men.” If you’re like me and dig gritty, quirky drama (surprised?), then it’s a must see.

The movie featured underworldly figures, drug deals gone bad, and a psychopathic, ghostly gun-for-hire who made life or death decisions based on the flip of a coin and who had just about the weirdest wiggy hairdo of any movie villain I’ve ever seen.

It was tense, suspenseful, and downright shocking, but subtract the Texas scenery, deadly drug trafficking, and murderous pathology, and it captured the tone of the next big item on my family’s agenda, namely, the dreaded school project.

Scary, right?

My son’s got a Civil War assignment due on Monday that he’s known about since before winter break.

Back in December he chose a topic (who wouldn’t, after 3 days of parental reminding/bugging?).

Around Christmas he went to the library (yes, it was my idea, but it was on our way so how could we just pass by?).

Over the past six weeks he’s spent fifteen minute to one hour segments of time (at my prompting, of course), chipping away at the big stone block that is his topic (a detailed time line of the events of the war), with the hope (that would be my hope) that he will carve the researched material into a finely crafted finished product (my vision: an intricate masterpiece, like Rodin’s Thinker or Michelangelo’s David; his vision: something more stark and abstract, like Stonehenge, I think).

A couple of days ago, I checked his progress. At T minus one week, he’d put together exactly one page of material. To his credit, it was illustrated, but still—there’s condensed and then there’s crushed to the size of a microscopic wafer.

Cheerfully, helpfully, and biting my tongue with all my maternal mojo, I said, “Don’t you think that an assignment you’ve had six weeks to work on should be longer than one page?”

And he said, “Oh, no, Mom they said only one page.”


Seeing the you’ve-got-to-be-kidding look on my face, he regrouped. “I guess they wouldn’t mind if we taped a couple of sheets together.”

You think?

After mounting a coordinated effort with him to transfer the material onto the computer, the original document has grown mysteriously to five pages, with plans (ordered by me) for further expansion.

That night, a little frustrated, disappointed, twitchy, and blinky from the whole experience, I made a school project status report to my husband. He wisely advised that rather than babysit the kid and his project for the next 6 days, we adopt a laizzes faire attitude and let the thing just play out. The boy might take personal responsibility or not, but either way he’ll get what he deserves, and hopefully, he’ll learn his lesson.

As for me, I’m just keeping my hands off the whole thing. I’ll wait, I’ll worry, and I’ll cover my eyes when things get really scary. But if consequences are what he needs, then consequences he’ll get.

I don’t know about you, but I’m on the edge of my seat.



  1. Uncle Bubbie said,

    January 30, 2009 at 6:32 am

    Ah, “No Country for Old Soldiers”…..Benicio Del Toro cast as Gen. U.S. Grant with his “win at all costs” strategy; Tommy Lee Jones as Robert E. Lee (of course), and Josh Brolin as J.E.B. Stuart. The story starts innocently enough with Stuart’s calvary coming upon a huge shipment of rum and homemade blankets. What Stuart doesn’t know is that the blankets are the personal property of Abe Lincoln. Lincoln dispatches Grant to recover the blankets. Along the way, Grant invades Virginia, destroys Richmond and Petersburg, and eventually finds the blankets hidden in Wilmer Mclain’s parlor at Appomattox Courthouse. Gosh, why didn’t someone write this story before?!

  2. scheirmad said,

    February 4, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    Good news…Jake received an A+on his project!!!! You rock, kid! Keep up the good work!

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