Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Botched Science Fair Experiment that Taught Me S'more About Life

It started like it has every other year. Local high school students came to my daughters’ elementary school and demonstrated some mini explosions and fascinating creations that got them all reved up about science, landing us a booth in the optional science fair.

Excited to come up with a project, the girls logged on to Steve Spangler and found a pizza box solar oven - seemingly requiring nothing but sun - to make s’mores. They couldn’t wait. S’mores are pretty much a love language to them in the summer and experimenting to make them another way? Well what could be better?!

They eagerly prepared their solar oven, assembled the s’mores, placed a thermometer in the box, and set it outside on an atypically warm, full sun day. Every few minutes they ran to check their box expecting a certain outcome. Time passed with no change, driving them back to the computer for research. NASA informed us that it should be at least 87 degrees for this project to work well outside. Thanks, Steve, we could have used that heads up in the how-to video! That isn’t going to happen in January in South Dakota.  Still, it suggested use of a 100 watt light bulb if it is not so sunny, which led the girls down a long road of experiment modifications to try and make this work and this mama to her knees begging God for the marshmallows and chocolate to just melt already. Only in parenthood. We ended by the fireplace, the temp no longer registering meaning room temp was now in triple digits, with the 100 watt bulb, staring at the unmelting s’mores.

How are my kids supposed to stand in front of a bunch of viewers & judges and say their experiment didn’t work? I need to find out who the committee chairs are and see if we can do a new experiment. One that is successful so they can feel proud.
A mama response to protect her kids that parallels the human condition.

We have dreams for our lives. Visions for the way we want it to look and hope for what others will see in us and when that flops, well then what? When situations outside our control crush us. When choices are made that reflect the opposite of who we want to be. When life doesn’t match up with our expected outcome. How do we respond?

I doubt I’m alone in my recoil because vulnerability isn’t an easy place to live.

And it wasn’t something I was about to force onto my girls. “Hannah and Grace,” I sat them at the table, “Do you want to stick with your experiment and explain to people what you tried and what you learned or would you like to find a new experiment to do? We support you either way.”

They opted to stick with it, writing this on their display.

My heart beat shaky as little hands wrote words with adult teaching.

What if we lived life not seeking the next best way to look good but in acceptance of our current reality? What if we called the hurtful and embarrassing things like they are (to the people who truly care about our hearts) so that we could work with what is? What if we lived with more vulnerability instead of pretending away that which affects us because you know what? Embarrassments don’t have to drown. Hurts don’t have to suffocate. Life can be lived hand in hand. Letting go of what you think will protect you and sharing what actually reflects you will in fact free you.

And people respond. As our girls stood by their board and noticed their big life lesson note, more stopped to than in any other year, eager to talk with them about what happened, why, and how they were doing with the results. Community rallied around them and uplifted them.

Because in the midst of their botched experiment, they stood authentic in the real science of life.

Grace and Hannah, daddy and I have never been more proud of your science fair participation. You remind us all how to be brave.

XO Melissa/Mom

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