Sugar cube pyramids and other maternal failings. (Wednesday’s Wisdom)

If you’ve read any of my prior posts, you already know this is my last year homeschooling my oldest, C. We just finished the first quarter.  Another milestone down. Another step closer to the finish line. Only 3 more quarters before she becomes an official high school graduate. This is an incredibly bitter-sweet year. It is an exciting year. It is a scary year. It is the final chapter of the 12 year homeschooling journey we have made together. Next year, college begins. She will no longer be my student. We will no longer have “next year to do that.” Which is why this year, I am pulling out all the stops to make it memorable. Sort of.

A favorite class is and always has been history for both of my girls. With the exception of a few years, (where the age differences and academic requirements differed too greatly) the girls have studied history together. It is a class that has generated great conversations and some special bonding times for the girls and I together.  I read the text aloud. We review source literature. We discuss and debate. And, over the years, there have been numerous “hands-on” projects to bring the lesson to life. We have made butter from scratch, crafted “authentic” Greek costumes, made our own paper, played “old-fashioned” games, decoded hieroglyphics, and painted our names in Chinese lettering. To further my list, I could dig through the file drawers which store the girls’ school work (dating back to the Pre-K years), but I think you get the picture. History is one of the classes I felt I had done particularly well.

After 2 years apart, the girls are studying World History together this year. It is their  “swan-song” shared class. In our first nine weeks of school, we have covered 4 chapters: The First Humans, Pre-History to 3500 B.C., Western Asia and Egypt, 3500-500 B.C., India and China, 3000 B.C.-A.D. 500, and Ancient Greece, 1900-133 B.C. As always, there have been many opportunities for critical thinking and conversation. Little did I anticipate, the conversation the “First Quarter Project Assignment” would generate. Not to mention the guilt learning opportunity.

The assignment: Choose a topic related to any of the time periods/civilizations we have covered thus far and 1) Research and write a 2-3 page paper about and 2) Craft a piece of art or project representative of that time period.

“Can we do the craft part together, if we write separate papers?” Not surprisingly, both were more excited about the crafting than the writing. “Sure, I suppose” I answered. They huddled together and immediately began brainstorming. We could do __________, or we could _____________, or we could______________. Truthfully, I don’t even know what ideas filled those blanks. I was deafened by the sound of my self-awarded “Great History Teacher Award” crashing to the floor when C came up with the winning idea.

It was said with a small child’s enthusiasm; “We could build a sugar cube pyramid! I never got to build a sugar cube anything like regular school kids. We’ll build a pyramid out of sugar cubes!”

A added, “And a Sphinx out of clay!”

What?! Did we really never build anything out of sugar cubes? Toothpicks? Yes. Popsicle sticks? Check. Clay? Uh-huh. Sugar cubes? Oh, for the love of all things homeschooling! How did we miss sugar cubes?

Together, their enthusiasm filled a room. They discussed the lay-out and the time period. A pulled out paper and sketched a design. C rejoiced over sugar cubes. I was transported back in time. Memories of my two little girls making butter together and playing old-fashioned games warmed my heart. A simple bottle of glue and box of sugar cubes were needed to add one more memory to the collection.

I scrambled like an fighter-jet pilot. I couldn’t have my first-born graduate high school without the experience of constructing a sugar cube masterpiece, could I? If a sugar cube pyramid would put this icing on this homeschool cake, than sugar cubes I shall buy!

Or try to. But truthfully, not very hard. My husband and I went to Walmart. No sugar cubes. We went to Costco. No sugar cubes. We went home. I had missed the season of sugar cubes. There would be no pyramid. I should have tried harder to find sugar cubes. I had failed my daughters. 12 years of homeschooling wasted. Guilt had taken root.

“Sorry, girls. I can’t find sugar cubes anywhere. Choose different projects.”  I hung my head in “Mama-shame.”

If they were disappointed, it was fleeting. They quickly returned to brainstorming ideas–ideas that didn’t involve sugar cubes. They had moved on while I continued to nurture my guilt. I wasn’t done fretting over missed opportunities. Never once had C said, “I can’t graduate without building a sugar cube pyramid!” It didn’t matter. I had already opened 17 years of would have/should have/could have guilt messages. We mama’s are good at those, aren’t we? My list was extensive, and ridiculous. (Had we really only taken the girls to the circus once? Oh, the crime! It didn’t matter that C hates clowns. I added it to the list.)

My close friends tease that I carry a wagon-load of guilt. It’s an area I’ve been working on. I hate disappointing clients. I hate disappointing friends. I really hate disappointing my family. Usually, what I view as “monumental” is but blip on the radar. This was clearly one of those, but I made it something bigger.

Then, I remembered something my mom had once said, “Make choices for yourself you would want your girls to make for themselves.”  Would I want my girls to be flogging themselves over sugar cubes?  No, of course not.  “Since I started it,” I decided, “I can turn it off.”  And, I did. It was that easy.

It may be C’s last year of homeschooling, but I’m a student, too.  We are both learning. She is preparing for college, and I for the empty nest years by letting go of my “mama-guilt” over things we didn’t do. Who knows? If I work really hard, I might just graduate this year, too.

What are you holding on to? More importantly, are you ready to let it go?

7 thoughts on “Sugar cube pyramids and other maternal failings. (Wednesday’s Wisdom)”

  1. Gees no way to delete? Can you delete the one above w/ the typo even in the first sentence. I thought I was editing it, but it re posted it. Not bad for 2 AM pre empty nest insomnia 🙂


  2. I enjoyed the humor woven in this blog. I too carry guilt 🙂 I almost need like concrete closure to heal 🙂 I remember one child describing the loss of NEVER riding on a big yellow school bus = guilt. Thankfully, Youtube has videos of obnoxious school bus rides – a stark contrast to the school bus add for more school tax $$ showing happy, well dressed student riders with an armful of books not even in a backpack presumably to be quickly available for study purposes, many open seats, and even a SOBER school bus driver – oops I digressed…

    I was able to heal my guilt with a reality video. I am feeling so bad for your guilt, I will join you on the sugar cube hunt – hopefully before our daughters graduate 🙂 Oh wait, this blog’s about letting guilt go.. thanks for the reminder!


  3. I don’t have a ready answer to that question, but I wanted to say I love this:
    “Make choices for yourself you would want your girls to make for themselves.”

    I’m going to hold onto these words myself.


  4. I remember those sugar cube projects! I remember that most of the sugar cubes went in the mouth and not on the project! The angels were looking out for you, Mom!


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