I’ll admit it straight out; I am a failure at arts and crafts. I always loathed that time in school when I was there, and I have lived my life from then until now pretty much craft-free. And happily so.
But now, I am the Mother of two small boys, and the Pressure Is On. The other preschoolers in the neighborhood are bringing home mountains of examples of what can be done with construction paper, oatmeal boxes, glue sticks, and tempera paint. The other kids are deeply into Arts and Crafts. My home has not a single tempera handprint in sight. The neighbors are beginning to point.
My neighborhood, eight square blocks at the foot of a venerable old Catholic Church, is intensely competitive in the Domestic Decoration Front. For Halloween, people start planning months in advance, and end up doing dioramas of graveyards that span three houses’ worth of lawns. Last year, six houses pooled their funds and rented a dry ice machine, and flooded the entire street with low-creeping ground fog. It was absolutely spectacular. The entire city I live in buses kids into this neighborhood for Trick-or-Treat, because we’re known to be both safe and enthusiastic, which is not something easily found around here.
But you ain’t seen nothing until you’ve seen Christmas. Decorations started going up this year before the Thanksgiving turkeys had even been carved. Literally; the guy two houses down was wrestling with figuring out the blower machine for his inflatable snowman while his wife was in the house angling with whether the aluminum foil went shiny side up or down, as she does every year (it’s down, in case you were wondering.)
The church, St. Basil’s, has a private school. And most of the parents in this neighborhood moved here specifically to attend that school, so every day, there’s a parade past our house of parents with little uniformed children in tow. Rowan’s not particularly interested in that; my sybarite of a child sleeps late, and enjoys our mornings cuddling together on the couch while he wakes slowly and strategically plans his day. But the craft projects caught his eye. He asked about them. Several times.
They say that children are born knowing where your buttons are. My child not only knows where my buttons are, but more importantly, he knows where my deficiencies lie, and he’s a champ at helping me to overcome them. Right? Cause there has to be cosmic significance to his need to point out the crafts.
After my third nightmare in a row that involved potato prints, I decided I’d better face the beast. We headed to Michael’s. Bought construction paper in red and green. Bought a few of those cool pattern scissors that scrapbookers use. Bought two glue sticks (two boys, two glue sticks, it’s nearly a law of physics).
We were going to make Paper Chains.
Should be pretty easy, yeah? Cut strips of paper. Glue ends together, after looping through prior ring. Repeat. In the meantime, have fun with glue, cool pattern scissors, cutting paper, and festooning the halls with the artistic expression of your afternoon.
No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.
My first failure came with the opening of the glue sticks. They were old, dried out, defective. We were going to have to return them. Phooey! Foiled right at the start! But we already had the packs of paper and scissors out, so I thought we should forge ahead and at least get the strips cut out.
Failure number two. Rowan is not the least bit interested in straight lines, loopable lengths, or funny (“cool! They’re cool!” “No, Mama, they’re funny”) patterned scissors. I suppose there’s a need in this world for red and green confetti, yeah? Which leads us neatly to…
Failure number three. Where Kestrel discovers that if you suck on a piece of red construction paper long enough, your tongue turns red, and you can then lick the table and leave red streaks that freak Mama out completely because she thinks you’ve somehow gotten a hold of a stupid (“No, Mama, they’re funny”) scissor even though they’re both blunted and plastic-coated, and bloodied your tongue. Once the actual cause of the redness has been determined and the feat repeated with the green, to muddy-brown effect, I have utterly given up on the paper chains.
Just then, my husband arrives to save the day. He’s a tool guy. And sure enough, he shows up with a cool glue gun (“vastly superior in both handling and child safety,” he assures me, “to the hot kind.”).
Rowan is instantly thrilled, of course, because it even looks like a gun. Holiday spirit? Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men? Nah. We have a gun that spews glue! Bring on the loops!
Suddenly, the men in my life become a well-oiled machine. Hubby rapid-cuts strips, Rowan glues them, Kestrel carefully holds the chain. And before you know it, we have Decked the Halls. Paper chains everywhere… red on red, green on green, red and green. They’re thrilled. I’m relieved.
But I think I’ll just forget about the advent calendar project I saw…arts and crafts are clearly not for the faint of heart.
Laureen is a writer, a professional editor, a scuba instructor, a beginning sailor, a traveller, and an obsessive researcher who's chiefly focused on, and delighted with, her husband Jason and her sons Rowan and Kestrel. She's a lifelong Californian, which lends a very distinctive spin to both her ideas and her politics, and she's discovered, in her peregrinations, that the world is far smaller yet far more fascinating than anyone gives it credit for being. She holds forth her opinions on that in her blog, The Elemental Mom.