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Amy Brenneman: Crafting with Mom

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I learned some great life lessons when I sat down to make valentines with my kids this past weekend.

mom crafting with daughter

Amy Brenneman: It's not a good idea (we should all know this by now) for me to do crafts with my kids. It always seems like a good idea, and crafting at home is certainly part of the profile that I'd like to have as a mom -- along with making homemade lentil soup and doing community service by picking trash up in the park. It's not that I don't do cool and worthy stuff with my kids; I do. It's just that when the image of the mothering gets in the way of the actuality of the mothering, we're all in trouble.

The funny thing is, I'm not very crafty. My mother-in-law is, as is my sister-in-law and many of my friends. There's felting and quilting and knitting and crocheting going on in many corners of my life -- just not my own. So for me to suddenly get bossy about the way the valentines are made is hypocritical, to say the least. But I do.

"Don't put too many sparkles on, there, Bodhi!" 

 "Hey, Charlotte, you should do more on the INSIDE of the card, right?" 

I keep it jaunty, but there is tension in my voice -- which, thankfully, my children don't even take in. They are too absorbed with the glue stick, the sparkles, the stamps -- the actuality of having FUN -- to notice my obsession with doing it RIGHT.

Right? Who am I, anyway? This is me, who said I would never force my children to color within the lines, or criticize them if they were off pitch, or tell them that the sky has to be blue and the grass has to be green. Oh yeah, I forgot: Those rules are lumped in the pile of Opinions I Spouted Off Before I Had Kids. God, I was a great parent then.

"Hey, buddy, how about a little red on those hearts? Valentines shouldn't be all black, right?" Stamp stamp stamp: little black hearts.

"Hey, Bodhi, do you know what Valentine's Day is about, anyway?" Stamp stamp stamp. Stop. Look. Four-year-old eyes blinking with curiosity. "Not really," he answered.

I paused, my fingers itching to take away the black stamp pad and replace it with red, to scrape some of the piles of sparkles off to create a more pleasant shine, to remove some of the countless stickers and spread them out more evenly. "What's it about, Mommy?" he asks again.

I tell my fingers to stop itching, remind them that these are Bodhi's valentine's, not mine, and answer sheepishly, "It's about Love."

It's about Love. Craft on that, mama.

next: Smoking Mommy Fail
2 comments so far | Post a comment now
Wendi February 16, 2010, 6:35 PM

It is nice to hear what most of us think. I get the same way, then I just have to remind myself, they are having fun and no matter what it looks like in the end, it will be beautiful because they made it with love. I hang up lots and lots of drawings from my 3yr old and it makes his day. Relax and remember to just enjoy them, they won’t be that young forever.

Tracy February 16, 2010, 9:19 PM

It’s hysterical and awesome hearing you going over your choices as a parent in a third person sense. As a mom of two and previously ran a daycare, I know about trying to be all you can, even when you can’t and strong arming my urges to correct the children. My daughter loves to sing and dance, but is neither coordinated or harmonic and this is cause for great restraint on my part. She takes dance and participates in chorus but this only provides more material for her to perform with. This year she wanted to be in the school talent show, singing “It’s a hard knock life” from Annie… my heart broke thinking of the possible outcome from having the entire student body hear her tone deaf voice and clumsy moves. However, I supported her, and even went out to a thrift shop purchased an old dress, tattered it up some and left it in some coffee in the sink to make it look dingy. I bought a stainless steel bucket and a huge sponge for her “make it shine like the top of the Chrysler building”…. we were well prepared. Try out day came, she got on stage and began to weep, then uncontrollably sob, running towards me. Through the sobs and snot she said “momma, I don’t think my mouth wants to do this and it makes me feel like I have to pee really bad. Can we go home?” … deep inside I was relieved, the embarrassment of breaking down in front of five or six adult “judges” would be nothing in comparison to what her classmates could do. Somehow karma worked itself in and allowed her to veto the performance without me being derogatory or bossy. Thank you for being so straight forward, I relate to much of what you are describing and it is always good to remember we are not all alone in our endeavors to be the best mom we can (on that day).

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