Tuesday, February 14, 2012

On Creative (s)Mothering

My happy mom dreams include making ridiculously cute Valentine's Day projects with my kids for their class card exchanges. It's easy to imagine - Gracie and I sit at the table together, smiling. At one point, the magenta glitter spills and I toss a pinch of it in Gracie's hair, which starts a mini glitter war, and we laugh and laugh. And then, as Coldplay's Paradise swells in the background, she says, "Making valentines with you is so awesome, Mom," and cartoon hearts fill the air...

Yeah, those kind of dreams NEVER HAPPEN IN REAL LIFE.

Instead, after informing Gracie of all my brilliant crafty valentine ideas, she said, "Those are cute, but I just want to draw pictures for everyone, just like last year."

"But... but... what about....?" I mean, really. What does a mother say to news such as this? There are so many cute project ideas! "Well, that's really sweet," I said. "Your friends will love that."

And okay, I won't lie - as bummed as I was that she didn't want to get crafty with me, I did find it admirable that she would take it upon herself to draw super sweet valentines for everyone in her class, like she did last year.

Except that last year, if I recall correctly, her super sweet valentine drawing idea turned into me reminding her one million times to get to work on her valentines, and then us arguing whilst hurrying to get them finished late the night before her class exchange.

She must have seen my skeptical look because she added, "And this time I'll finish them early so you won't yell at me. Please, Mom, please can I draw cards for my class? Everyone says I'm the best artist."

I said yes, and Gracie got right to work. Cheerfully, she informed me that she'd draw her standing with each of her classmates, with hearts and peace signs all around.

She did her best work, and carefully wrote "To Sarah. Love, Gracie" in her neatest writing.

And then she promptly got bored and wandered off.

I'm pretty sure I hovered over her every minute of every day last week, reminding her to work on her cards, and wishing we'd done one of my quick and easy ideas.

"Mom, I know! I'll finish them right now!" I heard at least a hundred times. (Why people call it nagging, I have no idea. Clearly we mothers are reminding FOR A REASON!)

And then last night, when it was a half hour past bedtime, I said, "How are those valentines coming along?"

"Done!" she exclaimed, and showed me her work.

Okay, so I've read The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron, which means that every time my kids draw a picture, or write a poem or story, I wonder if the response I give them will help them bloom, or creatively block them for life.

It worries me, folks. I want to be a nurturing mother - especially when it comes to my children and their creativity.

So maybe I should have said, "These are great, honey. Good for you for drawing a picture for each of your friends."

But I didn't. I sifted through her cards and raised my brows. "Did you try to do your best work on all of these?" I asked.

"Um.... yes?" she said. "Here, look at Katie's - this one is really good."

She smiled, quite chuffed with her artwork, and was happy to show me the adorable cards she made for her four or five best friends.

The were impressive. Then I said, "What about this card?"

Gracie bit her lip. "Ummmmm.... That's for Charlie, and I don't really like him, so I didn't do my best work on that one," she said.

About 80% of her cards looked the same. I held up another one. "Who is this one for? I can't even read what it says on the back."

"It's for..." She studied the back of the card, specifically the name she wrote. "Um.... Gabriel? No wait, his is a different one. Um, it's for... Hailey? No, wait. Wrong hair. Um..."

Here's where I wonder if I should have just packed the cards up in their card envelopes and stuck them in her backpack, and let her deliver her valentines just as she made them. She is, after all, six-years-old. And hey, art is subjective - perhaps what I know is just Gracie's scribble is considered a masterpiece to someone else (you know, like Grandma).

BUT I COULDN'T. I just couldn't.

"And if Hailey saw the cards you made for Sarah and Katie - the ones you spent a lot of time on, would she feel bad that her picture is scribbled and she can't even read the writing on the back because it is so sloppy?"

Well, let me just say, Gracie started to cry. And I wondered, would anyone in her class even care if the cards are half-arsed and impossible to read? Isn't Valentine's Day more about the candy than the card?

But what does a parent do when even the kid knows she did a wonderful job on a select few, and hurried through the rest?

When I suggested we type up a quick and simple valentine note and print them - making them all the same - she went for it. Maybe I'm more of a creative smotherer than a nurturing mother, I don't know. But I made her promise to do a different Valentine project next year.

There's no moral to this story. Heck, there isn't even an ending other than BEING A PARENT IS HARD.

And I hope you all had a great Valentine's Day!



Melissa said...

Well, here's what happened in our house: Bea got strep throat AGAIN and so I ended up filling out the majority of her store-bought cards for her. We've totally gotten lax over the years, and I feel so ashamed.

I thought Gracie's cards were wonderful. At least she took the time to draw individual pictures for her friends. I think my kids couldn't care less about Valentine's Day. LOL!

MrsDragon said...

On the other hand, you did teach her about biting off more than you can chew and caring about other people's feelings not just HER feelings (I want these darn cards done).

I will say though, sloppy or not, the fact that she finished them all...man that's persistence!

Can she still give the ones she worked so hard on to those friends? Maybe after school?

Cathy said...

Thank goodness we don't have to do a Valentine's gift exchange with the class here! I'm afraid I'm a bit like you Marisa! I could just hear myself saying to Thomas, "Is this your best work?"... Sometimes you just KNOW they haven't put in their best effort lol

Laura Pauling said...

That's a tough situation but there is so much for the child to learn through this experience! And a mom. :) Very cute.

DancingMooney ♥ said...

Oh sweetie! I wouldn't have known what to do either, but I think you found a good compromise... she kept her artwork and you added a little note to everyone's so they all got a little of both... you go Mom! :)

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