The other day on Facebook, someone mentioned the phrase “crafts for kids” and I got the cold chill of terror that phrase used to always strike into my heart when I was a stay-at-home mom to two preschoolers.
Then I breathed a sigh and remembered that we’re past all that now and I no longer have to worry about nurturing the tender flowers of craftiness in the gardens of my children’s brains, or whatever. Because frankly, when I was a stay-at-home mom with young, impressionable kids, nothing struck terror into my heart more than parenting articles about cool crafts to do with your kids.
It’s not that I’m not creative. I’m creative, right? I write books. I write blogs. But except for a brief foray into counted cross-stitch in the early 90s, my creativity has never been the crafty kind. Combine complete lack of visual sense with very poor fine-motor skills and you get someone who dies a little inside whenever anyone says, “Let’s do a craft!”
The parenting magazines, not to mention the chit-chat from other parents, made it quite clear that by the time my kids were old enough to hold a pair of blunt scissors, I was supposed to be Doing Crafts with them. Guiding them through a clear Step-One-Step-Two-Step-Three process which at the end would produce something beautiful, or at least recognizable. Even that woman on TV with her stuffed raccoon friend struck terror into my heart as she walked kids (and raccoon) through the steps to make a sheep out of a milk jug or whatever (I got off easy on that one. Milk doesn’t come in jugs in Newfoundland).
Instead? What actually happened, when I decided it was time to “do a craft” with the kids? I would throw an armload of construction paper, crayons, markers, glue sticks, and the aforementioned blunt scissors on the dining table, yell: “Time to do crafts!” Then, as they dived into the pile of art supplies, I would sit down nearby and read a book.
It always seemed to work for them, although I will admit we were a little short in the “produce something recognizable department.” They had fun; I got some reading time. But it didn’t stop my soul from shrivelling up a little every time another mom would say, “Oh, I learned about the greatest craft to do with my kids, let me tell you about it,” or “Do you have any good ideas for crafts with kids?”
Now, I know my blog readers well, and I know some kind soul out there is probably going to post in the comments and say that I did the best possible thing for my kids. Rather than forcing their young minds into the mold of some preordained craft I simply left them free to roam, discover, explore and create on their own terms. And I guess that’s true, if you want to put a really good spin on it. But let’s not forget: that was never the plan. The lack of organized craft time in our home was always driven by two things: my laziness and my incompetence.
The good news is, it actually worked out really well. Both kids are not only wildly creative and artistic, they can do Actual Crafts. A couple of weekends ago I came back from a writing/relaxing retreat with the Strident Women to find Christopher urging me to play with this absolutely beautiful, detailed role-playing board game he’d designed.
Meanwhile, Emma wanted to show me the latest in her ever-growing (I think it’s up to 95 now) collection of fashion designs. (Yes, the daughter of the woman whose stated goal is to wear jeans and a T-shirt 365 days a year, is an aspiring fashion designer).
I’ve included pictures above as a comfort to all those non-crafty parents out there … just so you know that even if you can’t keep up with the parenting magazines and you can’t make a milk carton look like an alligator, you may still have a shot at producing talented offspring. Read a book and stay out of their way, I’d suggest.