When I was in school, some of the worst grades I ever got were in science class. I just don’t have the brain for it. However, most of my kids have exhibited some aptitude for science at one point or another, which is the direct result of some dominant genes from their father and maybe a recessive gene or two from me. Hey, that was science right there! But I digress.
Despite their mother’s lack of scientific ability, my boys in particular have all gone through a science-experiment phase, where all they want to do is make slime and watch Coke and Mentos explode.
It first started with my oldest son, George. He’s currently a senior in high school, but when he was just a kid, he was very much into the how’s and why’s and extreme-mess-making potential of science.
As his ninth birthday rolled around, I found a book called “Totally Irresponsible Science: 64 Daring Experiments for Young Scientists” by Sean Connolly. The book spelled out in detail how to perform thrilling and mostly safe science experiments using common household materials. I knew George would love it.
Now, I’m not the most fun mom in the world, but even I know that it would be no fun to unwrap a science book on your birthday and then be told, “By the way, we don’t have any of the stuff you need to do any of this.” So I took myself to the store and bought George his own supply of some of the most common items needed for the experiments: stuff like baking soda, vinegar, salt, cornstarch, rubber bands, plastic gloves, funnels, measuring spoons, and on and on. I packed everything into a big plastic tote and presented it to George right after cake and ice cream on his birthday. He was in little boy heaven.
As happens with most presents, the science experiment gift eventually lost its allure, and after a while it got stored in the garage, where it sat untouched for a few years. Every now and then we would pull it out to do an experiment or two, but it went largely unnoticed until recently, when we were cleaning some things out of the garage and it was rediscovered yet again. Henry, Emmett and Hyrum, now all at the golden ages where a bin full of exploding kitchen materials would be of interest, were instantly smitten.
They pulled the bin out onto the driveway and were entertained for a long time with all the delights and mysteries of science. I, on the other hand, was not so entertained with the mess they left afterwards when they didn’t take the time to carefully nestle everything back into the bin.
So I mommed the situation up: I bought a used cabinet for $20 from a friend and brought it home the next day.
“It’s your new lab,” I explained to the boys when they got home from school. “There’s space for all of your supplies, and even a little fold-out desk where you can do your experiments.”
Little boys aren’t usually excited about pieces of organizational furniture, but my boys were thrilled. We put the cabinet under an eave next to our garage, and the boys unloaded all of the experiment materials onto the shelves. Every couple days they go out to their “lab” to explode something or other on the driveway.
Last week, Hyrum roped me into helping him perform a never-before-tried experiment involving a balloon, vinegar, copious amounts of salt, and about half a bottle of blue food coloring. He was just making it up in his head, and I’m not sure what he thought was going to happen, but what did happen was that the balloon popped in my hands and turned my palms the same shade as the face of Neptune.
“It’s OK,” Hyrum chirped as I looked at my hands in dismay. “I’ll just hose you down.”
I got the feeling this wasn’t the first time someone or something had been hosed down in our driveway in an effort to cover up a science experiment gone awry. But at that point, I needed all the help I could get. Like I said, I’ve never been good with science.
Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and a random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.