In 6th grade, I had to write my first big research paper. This paper was so enormous that it took the entire second half of the school year to complete. A serious assignment in all its complex aspects, it brought one of my best friends to tears during outlining. In retrospect, not only was this paper our introduction to real research, it was probably a rite of passage for scholastic stress.
First, we had to peruse books on famous people, and then we had to hand in a list of three individuals of merit who we were interested in studying. Then the teacher assigned us one of these notable figures.
I was psyched to get my first choice: Eleanor Roosevelt!
Like the good girl I was, I went right to work that evening, beginning with a stack of note cards in a new plastic box specifically designed for said note cards. New supplies like this were so exciting. I got a highlighter. My first.
Before any word could be written on a regular sized piece of paper, the teacher emphasized, we had to fill out 100 note cards. No more, no less. 100 on the dot. Furthermore, our note cards would be graded. A good grade on the note cards was the key to a good grade on the term paper.
I was really into these note cards.
I headed into the basement to find my parents’ set of World Book encyclopedias. Dusting off some spines, I found the one I was looking for, removed it from the shelf, and brought it upstairs to the kitchen table. I always did my schoolwork at the kitchen table, even though my parents had recently re-done my bedroom to include an awesome, white formica, built-in desk. (That desk never got any play, which is why I might not ever give my kids desks in their rooms. They can study all they want in our new basement.)
I found the entry on Mrs. Roosevelt and read through it, excited at what I found. “Mom,” I said, calling out to her while she was making dinner. “Guess what?”
“What?” she must have said.
“Most people in our class are studying people who have died, but I get to write about a living person!”
“Eleanor Roosevelt?” She asked. “Alive?” At this point, my mom stopped what she was doing and thought long and hard. She considered the ceiling. She looked out the window. She might have even counted on her fingers and toes before telling me that this was just not possible.
She did lots of things to try and convince me that the information from our encyclopedia was outdated.
But what she couldn’t do was Google it instantaneously or research it on Wikipedia.
After all, the year was 1982.
And in 1982, a mother and daughter didn’t have the answers to life and death questions at dinnertime in their kitchen.
My mother doubted that a woman born in 1884 was still alive in 1982. However, she couldn’t actually prove it to me. All she could tell me was that our set of encyclopedias hailed from before 1960 and that it was probably time to throw them away, since surely by now, man had walked on the moon and the wife of our 32nd president was deceased.
Zoom ahead to now.
On the day that Michael Jackson died, my children asked me who he was. Within about 9 seconds, I had positioned the laptop in front of them at the kitchen island and had started streaming the Thriller video on Youtube.
“That’s Michael,” I said.
Only the 1982 version wasn’t quite the same Michael as the 2009 version, so then I quickly found some more recent images that the kids recognized as their MJ. “Oh, yeah. We know him,” Andrew said.
And then, for my own nostalgia’s sake, I found other videos to show them.
“Who’s that?” Andrew asked. Boy George was singing Karma Chameleon from the front of a paddleboat on a river. He had ribbons in his braids and was sporting that iconic porkpie hat and fingerless black gloves.
“Is it a boy or a girl?” Zoe wondered.
“Yes.” I said.
“Why does he have so much make-up on?”
“Because it was the 80’s.” I shrugged. Then I showed them some Madonna videos. Zoe and I decided that “Material Girl” was our favorite. Andrew decided that the 80’s were weird.
A few months ago, while listening to the car radio, my kids wanted to know who Mick Jagger was and why Adam Levine of Maroon 5 had moves like him.
Upon returning to the house, the laptop and I got to work immediately, pulling up videos and creating an informational, 4-minute Youtube mini-lesson in How to Dance Like a Rolling Stone.
Pretty soon, we all had moves like Jagger.
I’d like to introduce myself. I am Mommy 2.0.
I know everything.
What happens if Andrew needs to figure out the phase of the moon on a night that the actual moon is hidden behind clouds? Mommy 2.0 finds the virtual moon online and calls it gibbous. Science homework saved!
What happens when Zoe has to learn to read using not only books but also an interactive computer program with quizzes and prizes? Thanks to Mommy 2.0, Zoe can learn to read online as well as off, thereby quickening not just her reading ability, but also her ability to read on a Kindle.
And when Andrew has to study major monuments of Russia, Mommy tells him that she thinks the one with all the pretty colorful spires on top is the Kremlin. But then Mommy remembers that she knows nothing about Russia and, thus, should not be trusted. Using your own knowledge is a classic Mommy 1.0 mistake. A quick check on the Internet confirms this and the homework answer is changed to reflect the correct information: St. Basil’s Cathedral.
Eventually, a newer, sleeker, thinner model will replace me like a Hoover with a Dyson. Mommy 8.0 will probably have all the info implanted behind her ear with a microchip and she’ll be able to give herself liposuction. But for the meantime, I’m happy with my iPod and iPad and iPhone, doing the light research and fancy footwork that my job as Mommy 2.0 requires. No microfiche to contend with in musty library basements, no dead presidents’ wives to wonder about. If only there were a way to help mitigate all that stress that still comes with our children’s education, what with the note cards, and research papers, and outlining, and test scores and report cards and tears and deadlines and procrastinating and Mommy threats, like, ironically, taking away computer time until all the work is done.
Could someone out there create an app to help me with that?
(PS — Eleanor Roosevelt died in 1962. And I got an A on my term paper.)