Z: Mom, I have 15 more minutes of homework time left so I’m going to work on the essay. (Yes, I have to hold him down to do homework on Sunday, but it gets done.)
K: Good idea.
Z: Here are the 4 people I’d like to mount on Mt. Rushmore because they influenced me.
K: This ought to be good. (I’m thinking, is the world ready for Kanye West on Mt. Rushmore? Just kidding.)
Z: Barack Obama, my mom, my dad, and Michael Vick.
K: Uh, do you think this is the time to make your essay stand out since a number of kids will probably choose their parents?
Z: I have to answer the question honestly, Mom.
I don’t push it, but I want to. He went on to tell me why each individual had influenced him : President Obama because he’s smart; his mom because she takes care of him; his dad because he taught him everything he knows about basketball, and Michael Vick because he made a mistake, served time for it, and has tried to succeed despite adversity.
I listened but just before I told him to stop talking and jot down his reasons before he forgot them, I wanted to say more about trying to make his essay shine, stand out, be out of the ordinary. I didn’t, partly because Z would never let me get away with encouraging him to be disingenuous and partly because I could never really ask him to be disingenuous.