Mom’s Voice: Not Just a Bunch of Hot Air

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Janey's project
Janey’s project

My phone rang and seeing it was Janey, curious why she would be calling as using cell phones at school is not allowed, I answered right away.


“They shut us down” she whispered into the phone.


“The administration said the Whoopee cushion wasn’t appropriate and made us take it down.”

She had to get back to the Earth Day presentations, but promised to fill me in after school.

The day was the culmination of an extended and involved group project. The sixth graders divided into groups, had been hard at work for the past few weeks on papier-mâché globes the size of enormous beach balls. After being assigned a topic related to one of the environmental challenges facing our planet, each group engaged in hours of research before making a visual representation- using the globe as a blank canvas.

They then were expected to present their findings to parents, teachers, and students ranging from kindergarten to sixth grade who would visit their globe station throughout the day. Complex topics such as drought, oil spills, e-waste, and deforestation were tackled. Janey’s group was assigned methane gas.

They learned methane gas comes from cows and landfills, and how those gases affect the environment or can be used as an alternative energy source. In a conversation about methane, Janey also told me giggling that there is in fact methane gas in human farts.

“You should incorporate that into your presentation I suggested. “Kids will always remember more information on methane gas if it somehow relates to them personally.”

On Earth Day at school, next to their globe, Janey’s group set up a chair, upon which was a Whoopee cushion. Taped to the chair was a handwritten sign, “Produce your own methane gas here” The perfect example of the old adage, “Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand.”

Apparently, for about a half hour, the methane gas group incorporated the hands-on, or rather, tush-on learning into their presentations. Lo and behold the science teacher came over and told the group they would have to remove the Whoopee cushion. The administration believed it was inappropriate for school. The theme of the globe, cow flatulence and manure was OK, but the line was drawn there.

That’s when Janey secretly called me at lunch, the second infraction at school in one day. That is saying a lot for my middle child who historically follows the letter to the law and just wants to quietly please. And the fact that the reason she called was to share her disagreement with the administration’s action made it even better.

Before adulthood, everyone needs to learn to question. Get skilled at sticking to one’s beliefs.  Find the balance between respecting rules, and knowing when to break and few.

Janey has arrived. The Age of Rebellion is dawning.  As long as we stick to Whoopee cushions and sneaking a call home to mom now and again, a few acts of defiance are healthy. And that’s not just a bunch of hot air.

Jill Fales is the mother of four and author of “My Laundry Museum & Other Messy Gifts of Motherhood.” Visit her at

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