Published on October 4th, 2013 | by Victoria Petron2
Victoria Petron on Being A CRAFTY MOM
I’ve always been jealous of my family’s artistic abilities, envious to the point of rage each time I attempt to draw a fairy sitting on a mushroom or paint an abstract painting, whatever that is. We have architects, art teachers, painters and artisans I our family, yet I inherited either no artistic ability or at least no patience to develop such ability. A guy I dated told me once artists are the best in bed because they are so crazy. How many people in this world can say their mental illness or social flaws get them laid? My sister once told me that artists have a better chance of becoming famous after they are dead. Artists can get away with saying things that coming from someone else would sound like a cry for help. When my older sister or younger brother say something like that it is artistic and profound, but when I saw something like that I’m being dramatic, negative, or just the whiny middle child. I wanted to be like my siblings, whose work could be proudly framed and displayed in hallways and bedrooms. My work was nothing but dishonorable handwriting on creased, crumpled, and dirty notebook paper, redundant words often depicting the most boring or depressing moments of my day.
By the time I became pregnant I realized I was never going to be an artist. I baked, wrote in my journal, or made jewelry and decided that was as creative as it was going to get for me, but I did not want Lilly missing out. As soon as my daughter was old enough to hold crayons, markers and paint brushes, I’ve been allowing her to make a mess on paper or cardboard. When Pinterest and I became a daily item I was bombarded with pins of toddler crafts and sensory bins, 50 things to do with corn starch or a mason jar, theme days, and oh the food porn! They call them recipes, but it is food porn. Damn you Pinterest! Cue the feelings of inadequacy and underachieving, bring in the excuses!
I knew that some of the stay at home moms making these blogs and pins were of a different breed than I. I imagine most of them are plain Jane, married, and middle-to-upper-class women who have the patience of a saint and care a lot about how other mothers around town see them. Despite our differences, I admired them because of how great art and hands on learning is for children. Lilly and I started with a non-intimidating craft project: the classic toilet paper roll noisemaker. We progressed to painting mason jars and jewelry boxes. During various food experiments I had Lilly shell peanuts or stir the cake batter. For the fourth of July we went to a local farm and picked blueberries for a few hours. One day I had a monstrous craving for smores and a campfire, and turned the whole day into a camping theme.
Lilly’s paintings and drawings started to overwhelm the house this fall, and I hate throwing them away. I am an office supply addict, borderline notebook and writing utensil hoarder, and school supplies were on sale so I made her a portfolio with a binder. The portfolio also serves as her new sticker album as well. It is forbidden in this house to waste Lisa Frank stickers by putting them on furniture and car windows.
Toddlers love collecting things. I noticed Lilly trying to collect popcorn kernels one night, hiding a stash inside her mega-blocks building. She also hides food in her dump truck, car keys in the play kitchen, and permanent markers in her bed. I wanted Lilly to start hiding things that would not cause me stress, so when the other day Lilly collected leaves, we put them in books. In a couple weeks we will have dried leaves for fall projects. She is young enough now where she does not realize if something she collected – say, pine cones – disappear a few days later. I mean, you can only keep so many collected things around the house.
Lilly is never disappointed if the cookies get burnt or if the watercolor painting has too many murky colors on it. The process and experience is often more important than the end product. Of course the process and experience isn’t always perfect. I used to get really upset when I was trying to teach Lilly something new and she didn’t grasp it right away. There are times I let the beads roll off of the table so she can see why I told her to keep them in the container while she strings them. Some days she will sit through the flashcards, but she isn’t engaged or listening. You can’t force someone to learn when they don’t want to. People who have the patience to do children’s activities all day, every day, are usually teachers or work in a daycare, and they even struggle when kids are tired or sick. I remind myself that no one is going to criticize me if we have a lazy movie day once in a while. As soon as I was able to ditch my perfectionist, all-or-nothing attitude, I forgave myself for not being an artist and realized I am way happier being a crafty mom.