Thursday, April 14, 2016

Surprise, Surprise! An "Expanding Soap" Science Experiment for Kids is a Total Shit Show

Leave it to the adults who create "experiments" for kids in the name of "science" to turn soap, of all things, into a total shit show.

Last night was "science night" at Paige's school, but I wouldn't be giving credit where credit is due if I didn't concede the event was pretty cool. 

There were about a dozen lab activities touching on chemistry, robotics, and biology. There was a "crime lab" and a K9 dog presentation from the Juneau Police Department, during which I began to contemplate how, as a parent, I would ultimately walk the fine but necessary line between letting my children become brainwashed by long-debunked Nancy Reagan-era war-on-drugs D.A.R.E. propaganda, and inadvertently allowing them to slip into dysfunctional drug addiction. In other words, will I have the sort of kids who can smoke pot at Harvard and go on to graduate with honors from Yale medical school? Or will I raise two needle-exchanging junkies by failing to take a hard-line stance against all forms of chemical inebriates at an early age? 

That's a blog post for another time though, because for now, there was simply a checklist.

The checklist contained an entry for each of the lab activities, and if you checked them all off, you got a little door prize on your way out. That prize was a small, deceptively innocuous looking white block on a paper towel, with a thin leaflet of instructions, packaged together in a quart sized Zip Loc baggie. Isaac in particular was determined to zoom through all the activities as fast as possible without absorbing one iota of scientific knowledge in order to claim the coveted door prize at the end. 

"Are we doing this here?" he asked Paige's principal as she handed him his baggie of "experiment." "Oh no," the principal replied ominously. "We're not doing this here. You're going to do this in your OWN house." I immediately recognized the tone of a fellow mother conveying to me exactly what could be expected from this "science experiment:" a total, complete, and unmitigated shit show.

And she was right.

Each of my kids earned their "expanding soap" experiment and we left for home. My Alaska Mom/my kids' Alaska "Nana" happened to be visiting on a layover en route from Anchorage to the east coast, and I hadn't seen her in almost six months. So naturally, I was eager for the kids to go the fuck to sleep so we could hang out, have a glass of wine, and catch up.

But a prompt retreat was not in the offing.

First we stopped at the supermarket for hot fudge makings, and Nana took it upon herself (with her usual degree of saintly patience) to supervise a new sugar and chocolate-based science experiment at 7:30 p.m. In the midst of that, however, Paige saw fit to conduct the expanding soap science experiment, wisely choosing to ask forgiveness over permission. 

The generously-named "experiment" consisted of removing the white block from the Zip Loc, putting it into the microwave for approximately one minute, and watching in horror/joy (depending if you were the parent or child) as the microwave filled to capacity with a giant cloud of greasy, sticky, foamy white soap.

"WHAT THE EFF ARE YOU DOING, PAIGE?!?!?!?," I screamed, indifferent to the fact that my Alaska Mom was witnessing an embarrassing moment of parental decompensation--one which included thinly veiled profanity to boot. Having raised four kids herself, she surely knew a thing or two about that, but still. I wanted all of us to be on our best behavior, and it was not working out as planned.

"It's SOAP, MOM," Paige sniped obnoxiously. "It's CLEAN." I grabbed her chin firmly in my hand and whispered menacingly that she had better stop showing off for her little friend, who was over our house and watching this scene develop with an expression suggesting the need for popcorn. 

Isaac, for his part, immediately detected some unresolved sibling inequity with the same keen senses that Buddy the K9 drug-sniffing dog uses to suss out meth in a trailer park.

HIS soap experiment was still in the car, and surprise surprise! HE wanted to do it too. Then ensued a huge meltdown in which I explained to Isaac that Paige had conducted the soap experiment unauthorized, and we were not doing his now, if ever. I didn't care how "unfair" it was, and if he kept crying about it, I would throw the whole thing in the garbage where it belonged in the first place.

Fortunately, just about this time the hot fudge experiment was ready for a lab assistant, and Isaac soon forgot the deep injustice of the soap experiment in favor of shoving large amounts of sugar, butter, and cream into his face 20 minutes before bed. It might be sufficiently forgotten by now, in fact, that Isaac could very well fail to notice that I already "disappeared" his soap.

If not, it's a good thing we have an entire pot of leftover fudge sauce.

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