Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine's Day craftastrophe.

Being a mom, specifically a stay-at-home-mom, is what I've wanted to be my entire life. As a child I can remember looking up in awe at some of the great mothers around me (like my friends' moms or my cousin or the women I babysat for...) not like, "I want a mom like that," but like, "I want to be a mom like that." Even when I was really little. I liked the idea of hanging out with kids and babies all the time, sure, but it was the crafty stuff I was really after. I mean, what other grown ups get to play with crayons and glue sticks as their job? (Besides children's book illustrators of course!)

So, naturally, when the holidays roll around I jump at the chance to engage myself my kids in a project we can make to wish the grandparents and aunts and uncles a happy whatever. But I'm starting to notice that just because I get really excited about stuff like this does not necessarily mean Liam is on board.

I think it's because, despite what I keep telling myself, he's just not that artsy. For whatever reason I had him pegged as this creative little guy, this...artist. And it's not that he's not creative - he totally is - but maybe just not in a visual arts kind of way.

This started to come into focus when I picked him up from Encore recently. All the kids were taking home paintings they had done of themselves performing on stage - I saw brightly colored paintings of kids playing instruments and dancing and performing with a circus - really incredible work. And then I saw Liam's painting:

Do you see what he did there? Painted a big splotch and said it was him on a green screen for special effects. Creative? Oh my goodness yes! (Not to mention hilarious!) But are you starting to see how making valentines together might not be his idea of fun?

At first I tried my usual approach - putting everything pink and red and Valentinesy out on the table like, "Ta da! Now all you need is your imagination!" - but that didn't work AT ALL. (Duh. What was I expecting? I big red glitter splotch titled, "Liam on a green screen wishing you a happy Valentine's day"?)

Thank goodness the little girl I babysit for will humor me.

So I dug a little deeper. I remembered a project one of my mom's friends had her kids make as gifts one year and used it as a jumping off point. We would make heart-shaped valentines with a picture of the boys on one side and a bunch of sweet words glued to the other. Liam would search through magazines for the words (a reading skill, not a crafty skill!) and cut them out with scissors (a fine motor skill!). And since he almost always likes using a glue stick, I thought his role in the project would be a win-win-win.

And it should have been. Really. There was nothing about it that wasn't right up his damn alley. But it was like PULLING TEETH to get him to play along.

First I had to bribe him to let me take pictures.

Always worth it.

Then I had to beg him again and again and again to stop noodling around and just HELP ME for godsake!

And then finally I just had to fire him and finish the stupid things myself.

Which is fine. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, forcing my kid to make paper hearts is just not a fight I need to have. Besides, I'm the one who wanted to make them, not him. There's no reason I can't just make crafts for my mom and dad because I want to. Right? Oh, whatever. I'll just let Liam take the credit.

(I just remembered I did this EXACT SAME THING on Mother's Day! When Bill's mom called to tell me how cute Liam's little thumb prints were on the note cards we made, I just went with it. Ha!)

My pinkie, Liam's thumb...whatever.

I had completely made peace with our valentine craftastrophe when I got an e-mail from Liam's teacher saying that since we missed school on Thursday because of the snow (like the 12th snow day this year - and, no, we have not had that much snow), we would be celebrating Valentine's day on Tuesday the 15th - SO PLEASE BRING CARDS FOR ALL THE KIDS. There was a brief, fleeting moment where I thought it would be adorable for Liam to bring homemade valentines to all of his friends at school. But then I realized that would mean I would have to make twelve more valentines or spend another two days pushing my child in a direction he did NOT want to go.

Forget that nonsense. We were going old school.

I mean, that's how I remember Valentine's day as a kid. And it was great! I'd pick out the cards I liked at the store and then choose who from my class got what card (like somehow the boys I liked would totally get that "I ch-ch-choose you" really meant "I love you for reals!"). Sometimes we'd buy a bag of conversation hearts or lifesaver lollipops and I'd stuff one into each teeny envelope. Nothing fancy. Certainly nothing homemade. But awesome enough that I still remember it today.

As it turns out, not much has changed.

Liam went with the holographic dinosaur cards and LOVED addressing them to all the kids at school. He was so thoughtful about it - I think Todd would like a carnivore the best but I wonder if I should choose a land carnivore or an underwater carnivore? - and never once needed a reminder to stay on task (a miracle these days). But what thrilled him the most was crossing the names off his list. Who woulda thought?

And when I picked him up from school this afternoon, the note from his teacher read, "Liam was SO excited about giving his valentines out. He told everyone all day, 'I made a card for you!' So cute!"

So there you go! Yet another reminder that it's the journey, not the destination, that counts. If I had forced Liam to make what I wanted him to make just for the sake of looking like the mom in my imagination, that would have missed the point entirely. It's not what you give, it's how you give it. And while Liam's valentines might look like they're from Kroger, I can assure you, they are totally from his heart.

To Liam: I love you for reals.

*I am not responsible for the term "craftastrophe" - my clever friend Heather came up with that. Unlike Liam, I don't like taking credit for other people's creativity...


Courtney said...


Caddie said...

Hey, remember me - Caddie from Storage Systems? If you ever want to "borrow" my daughters so you can be Surrogate Crafty Mom with them, you are totally welcome! They are always seeing these crazy crafts on TV & they get SO excited...and even though it sounds like Liam & I would get along JUST FINE, crafts-wise, I don't want to Stifle Their Creativity...So I end up constantly trying to figure out implementation. Seriously, we should have kid-switching days sometimes! :-)

No Mommy Brain said...

caddie - of course i remember you! you saved me big time. :)
kid swap is a great idea. you and liam could party with excel files and check lists. wild times!