Sometimes, regardless of planning, accidents will happen

Teaching Your Child

Teaching Your Child

September 05, 2008|By LISA TEDRICK PREJEAN

"Be careful with The Jar."

If I told her once, I told her a hundred times.

Each year at our school, the first project for fourth-graders is making an insect collection. Knowing this, during summer, I started talking about insects with my daughter.

We looked for insects in the yard. At the library, we signed out a book on the topic. We read about the characteristics of an insect.

She wasn't particularly thrilled about touching insects, but she didn't fuss too much. Her brother survived this project, and so did her fifth-grade friends.


Fourth-graders make a "killing jar" to humanely prepare insects to display in a collection. Let's face it, if you squish your insect, there's not going to be much left to view.

The jars students make in class contain plaster of Paris and fingernail polish remover. The fumes from the acetone in the fingernail polish remover kill the insect while preserving its body structure.

My daughter has heard stories about the infamous jar for four years now. She and her friends talked about how they would be unable to watch their insects die and how they would be careful not to breathe the fumes.

I appreciate their sensitivity to life and their concern for safety. However, my main reason for warning my daughter about the jar had nothing to do with either of those.

Four years ago, as we were leaving school on the day the fourth-graders made the jars, my son's slipped out of his hand, fell on the floor and broke.

I felt like a terrible mother. It wasn't just that his project was laying in pieces all over the floor. It was my first year as an elementary school teacher and I had kept my children at school until almost 6 p.m. while I was correcting papers and planning lessons.

I vowed it wouldn't happen again. So I told my daughter to carry her jar with both hands. Take two trips. Be extra careful so the jar doesn't get broken.

Her jar made it home safely. My daughter placed it on our kitchen counter and then went out to catch some insects while I made dinner.

I was planning to tell her that she would have to find another spot for the jar when she came in to retrieve it. She was excited because she found an insect. She practically skipped out to the front porch to take care of it.

The next thing I knew, she was coming back in the door to tell me that the jar had slipped out of her hand onto the concrete walk.

What a bad case of parental déjà vu.

My son just shook his head.

"It's a family trait. When it comes to The Jar, we are doomed," he solemnly said. Then he smiled. "Sometimes I think you can talk about preventing something so much that you cause it to happen again."

This time wasn't quite as bad because I knew my daughter could complete the project without that jar, just as my son had completed the project without his jar.

I also didn't feel so guilty. Sometimes accidents happen in families, regardless of how late Mom is at work or whether she's working a 10-hour day outside the home or standing barefoot, in the kitchen, making dinner.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to

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