There they were: twenty-four little monster faces staring up at me from their cupcake heads. I met their tiny candy eyes. Oh yeah? I thought. Does your birthday boy have nineteen kids coming to his bouncy house party? I looked at the perfect beribboned yellow gift bags, destined for their perfectly decorated party room. I think not. I looked at my completely adequate mini cupcakes, with little frosted peaks bedazzled by sprinkles and sugar. A half hour ago, I was proud of my mastery of the frosting gun. I thought the cupcakes looked nice. Not so much now.
A few months ago, I bought some reversible overalls for Christian at a consignment store. One side was black with Jolly Rogers on it, and the other side was covered with colorful cartoon pirates. I did not notice that it had no tag. Our Parrot Head friends loved it – Parrot Heads are into pirates – and one of them said, “Did you make this?” HA! I pay the dry cleaner to sew my buttons back on. Make it? I don’t think so.
When I belonged to a moms group, we’d get invitations to all kinds of play dates – pancakes and pajamas, Gymboree, parks – you name it. There were even craft play dates, where a mom would set up a craft for the children to complete on her dining room table. We never attended the craft play dates. I was too embarrassed. All I ever set out on my dining room table were snacks.
Up until now, I was ok with being that kind of mom. The kind of mom who restricts the use of markers, because the rugs are not a canvas and neither are the walls. I have a Sharpie fresco in my bedroom to strengthen my position. I resisted paints because they’re too messy. And pen and ink – Rose’s favorite medium – is restricted to her art table in the dining room. I had to remove too many ink marks from the couch to give her free reign. All this sounds like I keep a clean house. Not so. Our house is quite lived-in, but I object to allowing practices that cause permanent damage. Incidentally, Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser gets most stuff off of walls – not Sharpie, at least not completely – but most things.
The other reason Rose doesn’t do a lot of crafts at home is because I’m not a crafty person. I do not have a scrapbook. I don’t even have baby books. I have .jpg’s in “My Pictures –“ that’s about it. There is no felt in the house; nor is there construction paper and absolutely no glitter. I don’t know how to knit or crochet or sew. And before I had kids, I didn’t know that all of these things were required of a mom. I thought I could be a good mom, just the way I was.
It’s not that I’m not a creative person. I’m a writer, for goodness sake. Creativity is my livelihood. But art? Visual art? Not so much. I can’t even draw good stick figures. Plus, Rose comes home from preschool with piles of art – so much that I choose a few refrigerator pieces and throw the rest out. Preschool has smocks and big tables and floors and walls they don’t care about. The kids’ inner artists are all completely free there. Does she really need to do more art at home?
Nevertheless I felt bad about not being that kind of mother — the kind who spends hours at Michael’s looking for family craft projects. The kind who sets up crafts for her kid and his friends to make a masterpiece. The kind that buys glue sticks. I was, until one day in the kitchen. I was making cookies and asked Rose if she wanted to help. She did. What kid doesn’t want to help make cookies? I let her crack the eggs – she loves that. I let her hold the mixer – she did that until her little hand got tired. Then I let her dump the chocolate chips in. She wanted to spoon out the dough but she gave up on that quickly. But when those cookies were done, she couldn’t wait to give Daddy one of the cookies that “she” made.
The next day I was making meatballs. She wanted to help. At first I said no. I didn’t want her playing with raw meat. But then I thought about helping my mom with meatballs when I was little. I said okay and she got on her stool and I showed her how to roll the meat into little balls. Her meatballs were more like meat footballs but she was so proud of them. She rolled meatballs until her interest waned and she went on to something else. The meatballs just happened to be for her school lunches. The next day, when I picked her up from school, the teacher told me how excited she was to have the meatballs she made as her lunch! And she ate them all. Hallelujah!
I realized that day that I may not be crafty, but I do give Rose those valuable bonding moments the other moms find in making felt owls. And not only does she get a sense of accomplishment, she gets to eat our “projects.” Maybe I’m not such a bad mother after all. Maybe having felt in the house is not the most important thing. Maybe it’s just working together and having something to show for it.