science fair judges and rainbow crashes

by rebecca on April 10, 2010

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       Today I’m giving away a crystal because I learned more at my kindergarten daughter’s science fair than she did. The lessons stayed with me and helped me raise my children more gently.

      My five year old daughter and I were enamored with rainbows. We found them everywhere we went: in the sky, puddles soiled with oil, and through the mist of a sprinkler. We were rainbow detectives.

       Opa, her grandfather, noticed her love of rainbows and got my girl a crystal to hang in the window. Magically this little piece of glass sprayed bites of color all over her bedroom walls. She loved it, and it inspired that wonderful curiosity little children have.

       She asked question after question about rainbows. “How does the light get separated? Why are there so many invisible colors? Why does light bend?” I was both impressed and enlightened by her questions. How did she know to ask these things? I was learning so much because of her questions.

       Then her kindergarten teacher asked us to do a science fair project. Being a theatre major, I’d never done a science fair project growing up. I was a rookie to this world of geeks. The teacher assured me it was as easy as looking at rainbows. That’s when I knew I could try.

       Most young mothers I know are eager. I was no exception. I was anxious to show the world how fascinating my daughter’s questions were, how she saw rainbows everywhere we went, how pervasive rainbows were in our life. I wanted to make certain the world saw how brilliant my child was.

       But what I wasn’t yet comfortable with was the crooked imperfection of a five year old’s hand writing. I am so embarrassed writing this. At home I had framed her first letters. I just wasn’t certain the judges would see the sweetness I saw when rainbow was spelled “ranbo”.

       Because I wanted there to be no mistake about how much my little cherub had learned, I had her dictate to me what she wanted to say and I typed it up. Together we glued my girl’s rainbow story onto the display board and headed to the competition.

       You know how this turned out. A little boy whose display board was a 5-year-old cacophony of crooked letters won the science fair. It looked just the way my daughter’s board would have looked had I let her do it by herself. The judge’s comment for my daughter was, “Too much parental involvement.”

       Other people have 5 year olds. Science fair judges know how to read the word “ranbo” and appreciate the effort that goes into that. I know for sure because I’ve now been asked to be a science fair judge multiple times.

       I was just so eager. I wanted the world to know that we were getting a lot out of learning about rainbows. I needed to make sure things translated. I learned from that science fair judge that I could relax.

      I’ve tried, since that day to allow my children to speak for themselves. Of course I haven’t always succeeded because my nature is to be certain I’m understood. But I learned to trust the prism. Light bends. Shine out my authentic self and allow my children to shine their authentic self and trust that, when viewed through the prism that is life, somewhere, someone will see their rainbow dancing on the wall.

      If you would like to have a crystal like the one that inspired me to see rainbows dancing on my walls, please enter my Friday giveaway by leaving a comment here. (I tried to take a picture of it, but crystals are shy about being photographed, so you just have to trust me that you’ll love it.) If you are shy about commenting, you can also email me at rbcamullen at hotmail dot com. (funny formatting helps with spam). Entries are due by Thursday.


Photo by Peter Fay. You can see more of Peter’s photography here.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Vanessa April 11, 2010 at 12:27 am

Somehow I always end up all watery at the end of so many of your articles… but its a feel good kind of watery. Thanks again, Rebecca.


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