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Valentine's Day Craftastrophe

Photo by: Shutterstock

Being a mom, specifically a stay-at-home-mom, is what I’ve wanted to be my entire life. I liked the idea of hanging out with kids and babies all the time, sure, but it was the crafty stuff I was really after. I mean, what other grown-ups get to play with crayons and glue sticks as their job?

So naturally, when the holidays roll around, I can’t wait to sit down with my kids to make something crafty to send to the grandparents. But I’m starting to notice that just because I get really excited about stuff like this does not necessarily mean my five year-old son Liam is on board.

I think it’s because, despite what I keep telling myself, he’s just not that artsy. For whatever reason I had him pegged as this creative little guy, this… artist. And it’s not that he’s not creative—he definitely is—maybe just not in a visual arts kind of way.

This started to come into focus when I picked him up from school recently. All the kids were taking home paintings they had done of themselves performing on stage—I saw brightly colored paintings of kids playing instruments and dancing and performing with a circus—really incredible work. And then I saw Liam’s painting: a big purple splotch of paint titled, “Liam on a green screen for special effects.”

Creative? Oh yeah. But are you starting to see how making valentines together might not be his idea of fun?

At first I tried my usual approach—putting everything pink and red and Valentinesy out on the table like, “Ta da! Now all you need is your imagination!” But that didn’t work AT ALL. (I’m not sure what I was expecting. A big red glitter splotch titled, "Liam on a green screen wishing you a happy Valentine’s Day?”)

So I dug a little deeper and came up with a specific assignment. We would make heart-shaped valentines with a photo on one side and a bunch of sweet words glued to the other. Liam would search through magazines for the words (a reading skill, not a crafty skill!) and cut them out with scissors (a fine motor skill!). And since he almost always likes using a glue stick, I thought his role in the project would be a win-win-win.

And it should have been. Really. There was nothing about it that wasn’t right up his alley. But it was like PULLING TEETH to get him engaged. Finally, after more whining and complaining than seems possible for one five year old boy (and his mother…), I fired him and finished the darn things myself.

In the grand scheme of things, forcing my kid to make paper hearts is just not a fight I need to have. Besides, I’m the one who wanted to make them, not him. There’s no reason I can’t make crafts for my mom and dad just because I want to, right? Oh, whatever. I’ll just let Liam take the credit…

I had completely made peace with our valentine craftastrophe when I got an e-mail from Liam’s teacher reminding us to bring valentines for all the kids in class. There was a brief, fleeting moment when I thought it would be adorable for Liam to bring homemade valentines to all of his friends at school (the other moms would be so impressed!). But then I realized that would mean I would have to make twelve more valentines or spend another two days pushing my child in a direction he did NOT want to go.

So we got in the car, headed to the nearest grocery store, and bought the holographic dinosaur cards Liam picked out. He got to work addressing them as soon as we got home and absolutely LOVED checking his friends’ names off the class list. He was very thoughtful about which card went with which friend. “I think Todd would like a carnivore the best, but I wonder if I should choose a land carnivore or an underwater carnivore?” He never once needed a reminder to stay on task (a miracle these days).

When I picked him up from school the afternoon following his Valentine’s Day celebration, his teacher told me how excited Liam had been about his valentines. “All day long he was talking about the very special cards he had made for his friends. And the look of pride on his face when he handed them out? Absolutely precious!”

Wow. Leave it to my five year-old to remind me what’s really important. If I had forced Liam to give his friends what I wanted him to give just for the sake of looking like the mom in my imagination that would have missed the point entirely. It’s not what you give, it’s how you give it. And while Liam’s valentines might look like they’re from Kroger, I can assure you, they are totally from his heart.

Maggie navigates the slippery slope of stay-at-home-motherhood and trying to avoid common pitfalls such as sweatpants and mommy brain. When she’s not jumping on the trampoline with her boys, walking the dog, or watching The Daily Show with her husband, she writes and illustrate children’s books and blogs at Just Say NO to Mommy Brain!.

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