My Life-Long Group Project

Some have accused me of being a nerd, of being a school lover. I'm not afraid of the fact that I greatly enjoy learning and, as a youth, I wanted to go to school (almost) every day. I found many classes enlightening, eye opening and passion igniting. As an adult, I miss being in the classroom and I miss reading amazing books and feeling transformed after a class discussion. It's probably not too much of a surprise that I didn't mind writing papers, either.

However, there were a lot of things about school that I didn't particularly like. And I mean besides experiencing puberty in front of an audience of critical peers, participating in pep rallies, and not having enough time between class periods to get my books from my locker and go to the bathroom. Academically speaking, in my mind, there was nothing worse than math class and group projects.

p> I just cringe thinking back to algebra, geometry, and in college- number theory (a math class in which we wrote about math) and how much I longed to graduate and be done with math forever. The memory of taking the GRE is burned into my brain. On an exam that gets harder with the more correct answers you provide, I never moved beyond the "greater than, less than, equal to" questions. I spent 40 minutes contemplating whether the hand ate the bigger number or the smaller number. How quickly I realized I would need to use math, simple, horribly stupid, basic math, every damn day for eternity. From balancing my check book or giving a tip, from helping my kids with their math homework or being the "data cruncher" at work, I can't escape numbers and the many ways in which we are to manipulate them.

You know what else I can't get away from? Group work. Yes, yes, we all know that work is a series of group projects. Unlike the surprise I got about the need for math in life, I had a feeling, call it a hunch, that when I started to work, I'd have to work with other people. It's annoying but it was anticipated. What I didn't realize was that marriage is one-long, never, ever, ever ending, painful group project.

Every day with Andy is like a group project. We all have been through the pain of a class project. You get the assignment and you get your team. You get the due date and the parameters. Everyone will be graded equally for the entire project so it's a real test of your ability to effectively delegate and collaborate. It's your teacher's way of telling you that success, and failure, is never limited to one person.

Oh. Em. Gee. I despised group projects! I would rather take a microeconomics test than participate in a group project. Give me a book and a 10-page paper and watch me shine. I can write a smashing thesis statement and back it up with excellent arguments, all cited using perfect MLA citations. But, a group project? No! Never! Asking me to complete a group project is to watch me erupt like Vesuvius, to spontaneously combust.

Let's talk about the dynamic of a group project. You've got the control freak- the one who tells everyone else what to do, who sets the deadlines,sends all the email reminders, rats you out to the teacher when you don't pull your weight and revises all of the PowerPoint slides you submit. Then, you have the kid who does nothing at all and gets an F (despite the threat that everyone gets the same grade) because she never showed up for one class, let alone attended any of the group meetings, or submitted any of the assigned slides and you find out she's transferring next semester anyway. Finally, you have the kid in the middle. You know him. He's the cute one. He's the one who can manipulate Miss project lead, Goody Two-Shoes in just the right way so that he squeaks by doing the minimal amount of work possible but still has his hands in the final product.

During the initial project meeting, that first class period, he lets her take the assignment sheet and assign the duties while he kicks his feet back. He gives her a little smile and writes his assigned section on the back of his notebook which will later become a coaster for his beer. When she asks how his section research is going, he'll be sure all her friends see him walk her from class to the lunch room while he asks if she'll send him his section again because his "lame roommate stole his notebook." Unlike their drop out group buddy, he'll stroll in, late, to the group interview assignment and be witty and charming to the interview subjects, ask Miss Good Two Shoes if she took notes during the session, and if she could type them up and email them to him. Finally, he'll send her his presentation slides the night before, with research all conducted on Wikipedia. She will be up all night re-writing his section and writing the drop outs' section and he'll dress in a suit the day of the presentation and over talk her. When the teacher asks them about the group collaboration process, he'll put his hand on his partner's shoulder and say that Miss Goody Two Shoes' administrative support helped him take the lead on the research and provided him with the space he needed to come to a creative conclusion.

Hell hath no fury like a woman who doesn't get credit for pulling all the weight in a group project. Or a wife who hass a husband who is the very cute and very charming and very manipulative group project partner. Mornings at our house: I get up at 5:30, work out, feed the pets, get myself showered and ready, get Charlotte up, get Caroline up, listen to a lot of screaming about the unknown location of combs and socks, make sure the girls' bags are packed, that the field trip note is in the folder and the sneakers are packed for PE. At 7:11, I get the coats, the boots, the mittens, the hats, and at 7:19 wait for the bus, walk them up to the bus, and draw an air heart and blow a kiss. Andy gets up at 6:45, goes immediately to the bathroom until 6:55, checks our bank account and makes a bagel and hands it over before the mass exit to the bus. He says good bye and proceeds to the bathroom to take a shower while we stand outside. On the way to work, I tell him I could use some help getting the girls ready and he says, "I did. I made their bagels."

On the day of the pediatric dentist appointment, two hours away, I leave work early, make the girls' lunch, pack snacks, water, ipads, and toys. We drive to the predetermined pick up location and wait 15 minutes past the predetermined pick up time. He calls 5 minutes later claiming he had "bad cell service and didn't see the call" and then posts the post-dental trip pic to his facebook feed, writing, "We did it!"

Grocery shopping-he brings it in and places it on the kitchen floor. The laundry- tosses it in the washer. The dog- let's him out at 5:45 and then falls back asleep while the dog barks and barks and barks to be let back in. Cleaning the house-he vacuums the floor. If he does a task from start to finish, say making dinner, he announces it repeatedly like it was some feat of strength. "Wow! Dinner was good tonight! I mean, really good! You'd be starving if I hadn't made dinner!" Yes, Andrew, that may be true. We're part of a well-oiled, marital, child-rearing machine and both of us plays an integral role in powering the machine. Look at us us-managing a house, a family, and careers. In this group project, we all get an A! Unfortunately, for me, there's no teacher for me to tell. There's nobody I can rat him out to, in an attempt to get his A bumped down to at least a B+ (But nothing lower. After all, he's cute, he walked me to the lunch room, and maybe if we're not doing a group project, we could date.) Unfortunately for him, I like to write argument papers. And I have a blog.


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