I am not a “crafty” mom. I have friends who do daily arts & crafts projects with their kids and who have closets overflowing with glue, stencils, glitter and construction paper. I mostly get it together enough to do art projects with the kids only around holidays. Today, we did a Halloween project. Although I do this rarely, and it almost never goes how I expect, I’m almost always optimistic and enthusiastic. I started out, after nap time, assembling paper, crayons, scissors and glue to make pumpkins, bats and ghosts to decorate our windows.
And, when B got up, he was excited to get started, so we commenced with cutting out the shapes, since that was a task I was only planning for B & I, anyway. We started, and the frustration set in almost immediately. B uses scissors at school “all the time”, but we’d never done it together before. The scissors were (by necessity) pretty dull, the paper was a little floppy, and he kept turning the scissors sideways, so I would turn the paper, and it ended (after about 2 minutes) with my fingers pinched a few times and B grumpy and unwilling to continue. Oops. Fail.
No question, I had asked him to do too much. And this point, i looked up “how to help your child learn to use scissors” and realized I was WAY off on what was reasonable. I tried again, with simpler, smaller tasks, but the “I can’t do it” mentality had already set in, and, regardless of the fact that I’m the adult and I even realized that I had created the frustration in the first place, his unwillingness to “just try again” started to really irritate me. So, I got snippy, and unsurprisingly, this did not motivate him to want to continue.
So, I switched into pitiful mom mode — “ok, fine, if you don’t want to help me, I guess I’ll just do it all myself . . .”. At this point, unable to tell which of us was the four year old, Liam woke up and groggily joined our merry crew.
I was able to salvage my mood, hoping that maybe Liam’s general enthusiasm for art projects would inspire B. I got B started on an age-appropriate scissor task (which he could do, and which seemed to buoy his confidence) and set up Liam with some coloring. I just *knew* we were going to have a great time at this point!
Liam, shockingly, showed no interest in coloring, but he did decide to try to eat the glow-in-the-dark crayons. Sigh. B ran out of paper to cut up, Liam ran off, crayon in hand, giggling, and I decided I had had it, and we were just going to give up and put everything away if no one cared. Fine. (Hmph!) So, I scooped up all the paper, the scissors, the glue and the crayons, and started to put everything away.
And, the kids didn’t care one bit. They didn’t want to do this project anyway, and they had no interest. But, truthfully, I did. So, I took a few breaths, and thought about it. Who is it I want to be in this moment? What do I really want to get out of this? Do I really not care? If we don’t do it, will I be disappointed? And, I realized, I *do* want to do it, even if they don’t. In a perfect world, they’d be excited to join me, and we’d all do it together, smiling and happy. In a less than perfect world, we’d all do it together, less than perfectly, but it’d be fun anyway. And in this world, the one I had in front of me today, I wanted to color pumpkins and bats and ghosts. And I wanted my kids to want to do it, but they didn’t. And I would have been disappointed if I hadn’t done it — especially if I had quit in an effort to guilt them into wanting to do it. I don’t want to be morose, I don’t want to be angry, and I certainly don’t want to be a martyr, glumly cutting out pumpkins all by myself.
So, I chose not to be any of those people. I sat down, got out the crayons, told Liam he could color if he wanted, but he couldn’t eat the crayons, invited B to join us, and I started coloring — all by myself. It took half a ghost before Liam sat down to help me, and by the time we’d finished a ghost, two bats and a pumpkin, B had joined us, too. (Although, admittedly, I think part of B’s enthusiasm came from the fact that when he asked, I told him we were doing an art project, and that therefore the Wii, the iPhone and the iPad were not coming out until it was finished.) B modelled a few of his grumpier “I can’t do the scissors” faces as inspiration for the jack-o-lantern designs, and he did the glue for the pumpkin stems entirely on his own. Both boys were giggling and jumping up and down with enthusiasm when the time came to actually put our work up on the windows. (At which point, Dan came home, and I looked like super mom with happy kids and pumpkins for the windows.)
It was a good day. I’m not a crafty mom, but I really wanted to decorate for Halloween, and I wanted the kids to join me. I’m embarrassed to admit how hard it was for me to avoid being dramatic, irritated or manipulatively emotional — all for the sake of paper pumpkins. But, even though we took some detours down those paths, I’m glad I was able to get it together, and focus on what I really wanted. We all benefitted, and, I was surprised to discover, it actually got us where I wanted to go.