The afternoon had gone on long enough the way it does when you’re home alone with a three-year-old. I’d cooked a nice, buttery mac-n-cheese as requested that then she hadn’t eaten. She’d dressed up as Rapunzel, a mermaid bride, a punk rock monster and a genie complete with towel turban, which she adorably calls a “kurban.” We’d played Barbie/Polly Pocket/Littlest Pet Shop with an alarming array of small, brightly colored plastic bits and pieces that I’m sure came in packaging that said Not Suitable For Children Under 3.
In between I checked my email, scrolled through Facebook, texted with my parents and rummaged in the fridge for snacks. I want to say I was completely engaged with my beloved third child, but I wasn’t. I wish I could say playing and make believing somehow released my inner child, but it didn’t. After two hours, I was bored. What to do for the two more hours before my big kids came home and dinner prep kicked into high gear?
Oh, I know: how about an arts and crafts project? Brilliant.
Here’s the thing about me and arts and crafts: I like thinking about these amazing projects and buying all the stuff – buttons, sparkling beads, marbled papers, pom poms, Mod Podge – but when it comes to execution, I freeze up. I can’t bear the thought of all those little crafty supplies and snippets of paper strewn across the floor or glue smudged along the kitchen table. Worse yet, how about a three-year-old wielding scissors and magic markers? Thinking about the potential mess and possible bodily harm makes me cringe.
The upshot is, I don’t do crafts with my kids. Before you think me a creativity killer, I do let my big girls do all sorts of arsty-fartsy projects on their own, in the dining room, on top of newspaper. And the three-year-old does plenty of painting and Play-Dohing outside on the patio. I simply keep my distance rather than be part of the action. I know my limits
Then again, maybe limits are meant to be tested.
I gathered up the cardstock and buttons, the shiny purple paper, glittery glue-on flowers and stickers. I rounded up two pairs of scissors, assuring myself that Lilah would be just fine using the alligator shaped, blunt tipped ones. It was the day before Valentine’s Day so we decided to make special cards for everyone in our family. The day was warm, the plum tree already blooming (sorry East Coast), so we set up our supplies in the sunny front yard. Just this one time, I wanted to let go of my crazy-making need for order and clean and safety and be in the sticky mess with my youngest daughter. She is the last child in the house who still revels in the jumble, who likes the feel of glue between her fingers and the way paper sounds when it rips. She is my last chance to celebrate the chaos and mess of childhood. I don’t want to miss it.
When Lilah dumps the entire bag of colored buttons on the walkway, I resist the urge to gather them back up. I watch her choose a fuchsia button over a dark red one and glue it to a green cardstock heart I’ve cut out. Glue drips down into her palm. She wipes it on her leggings. I only cringe a little.
“Look at this mama!” she says holding her decorated heart up for me to see. “This one’s for you.”
And you know what? It’s the most gorgeous mess I’ve ever seen.
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s sentence is “This one time…”