Fast, Cheap, or Good

Middle school wasn’t all that long ago (well, at least not in my head), so I knew what to expect when our oldest son entered 6th grade – more homework and more responsibilities. While my husband and children know me as an organizer, planner, and Type-A(ish) personality, I still recall 6th-grade-Leah, waiting until the night before it was due to finish coloring her social studies map of the world and never finishing that bleepin’ cookie recipe book for Home-Ec. The person I am today would love both of those projects. Really, who doesn’t love coloring? And making a bazillion recipe cards – not making or coming up with the recipes, just copying the words onto cards – what could be easier?! It’s that Leah I try to keep in mind when I’m harassing encouraging our 6th grader to finish his homework.

Slowly, I’m embracing the knowledge that there will be assignments he completes at the last minute or doesn’t finish at all. Even worse (gasp!) there will be projects he does his way instead of the way I would do them. Before you start admiring my self restraint and superior parenting skills, know that I still take every opportunity to preach about the dangers of waiting until the last minute to complete a project. My most recent sermon on the subject involved the “Fast, Cheap, or Good” illustration.

Fast, Cheap, and Good – you may only have two.

Good and cheap won’t be fast.

Fast and good won’t be cheap.

Cheap and fast won’t be good.

I’m not certain he understood the parallel between this and school work. He got stuck on the “cheap” part, which I explained was the toll it would take on him (or our family) to crank something out quickly or the toll it would take on our wallet if we had to buy materials at the last minute. But, even if it didn’t make total sense to him, it was a great reminder to me that sometimes I’ll simply have to let go and allow a project to fall short or fail completely.

When I worked with middle- and high school-aged youth, doing youth ministry, I read somewhere that I should keep a picture of myself, when I was their age, on my desk – an instant reminder of what it felt like to be 11 or 14 or 17. I considered this, briefly, until I pulled out my sixth grade school photo. Not only was the picture taken the day after a failed perm, but I somehow managed to forget it was picture day and wore white denim overalls (oh, the humanity!)

So, I think I’ll make my cookie recipe book instead.  Penance with a purpose – that sounds like me, doesn’t it?