The Battle of the Giraffe Report


It’s a fine line we walk upon to get Daniel to work on something.  If he’s interested in it, his handwriting is neat and everything is spelled correctly.  If you need two pages, he’ll write ten.  On the other hand, there are the Vietnam-like assignments that almost require a defibrillator to get Daniel moving on them.  It is those times where I have to really control myself and not do it for him.

Daniel had two weeks to write a report for the Cub Scouts on his favorite animal.  This should have been a breeze.  His den meetings are actually at the library.  We stayed afterwards and checked a book out on giraffes right then and there.  He was all excited, telling me all about the things he knew about giraffes and the various giraffes he has seen.  And then… nothing.

Part of the problem was the book.  It was a little more than we probably needed.  While there were pictures, they were black and white and small.  The book was mostly text.  I noticed it sat at page 26 for about three days.  I started dropping hints about reading the book and how we’d have to start working on the report soon.  No dice.  The “hints” were raised to “suggestions” then – finally – “ultimatums”.  Daniel sighed and slumped off in tortured silence, forced to read all about his favorite animal.

We decided to do a poster (as most of the other kids were doing posters).  Daniel struggled through each sentence.  His pencil would break.  I’d hear the whine begin.  I’d point out he has at least fourteen little pencil sharpeners and at least six thousand pencils in his drawer in the kitchen.  He’d somehow drag his body the two feet from the kitchen table to the counter.  Slumping under the tremendous gravitational pull of the Earth, he’d manage to open the drawer, select a new pencil and pull himself bonelessly back to his chair.

After all this, the facts I got were scribbled with random capitalization and no punctuation to speak of.  Giraffe was spelled with a “J”.  At one point, his facts included picture captions from the book (which didn’t make a lot of sense without the photos).  I wanted to scream.  Finally, I just asked him a bunch of questions about giraffes.  What do they look like?

“They look like giraffes,” he replied.

“So, they are blue with yellow stripes, about two feet tall with gills, right?”  Daniel laughed and corrected me.  I asked what they ate: cheeseburgers?  Daniel mentioned giraffes get in fights.  Good.  Interesting.  I kept talking to him – trying to keep him going – as I printed out some giraffe pictures for him to cut out for the poster.  In the end, we finished it up about half an hour before the den meeting.  I felt like I had donated blood.  The phone rang.  It was Daniel’s den mother.  Belvidere was in the throes of an ice storm (I hadn’t noticed).  The roads were slick and the meeting was canceled.

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