Thursday, April 10, 2014

Joining the buzz on childhood magic

I wasn't actually planning to get "philosophical" in my blog, but as this article about childhood magic is popping up everywhere now, I guess I'll put my two cents in. Basically it's about why I've just started this blog, so if this isn't the right time to talk about it, I don't know.

Yes, I'm one of these crafty moms who "scour Pinterest for the best ideas" and collect tips and tutorials for rainy weather, for spring crafts, for garden fun, for sewing projects and thousands of other things. I just looked it up: I have nearly 5,000 pins on my 65 Pinterest boards. Does that mean I feel in any way pressed to try all of these things myself, or with my kids? No. Do I think "Ooooh, I wanna make this" often? Yes, all the time. That's why I pin these things. And then I pick only one or two of the coolest ideas and actually break out the scissors and glue and paper muffin liners and fabric and sewing machine (erm, no, not all of these at the same time, that would be a strange project, I imagine). Do I think "So many things to do, so little time!"? Yessss. But I don't need Pinterest for that, or craft books. I have a "to do" list (or "wanna do" list, or most likely "would like to do but probably never come round to" list) of my own ideas that would keep me busy for a lifetime or two. Already. And still growing. I just feel that all those fantastic blog posts and tutorials and beautiful craft books and magazines provide me with some inspiration and background knowledge. By spending my kids' nap time reading blog posts about how to make bias tape or the best recipes for homemade finger paint, I not only do something I enjoy, I also learn something that might (or might not) be useful later on.

And that's one reason why I craft with my kids.
I love teaching them some (basic) crafting skills, so they can then go on and use a pair of (child-safe) scissors, some glue and a few pieces of colored paper or toilet rolls or whatever they find lying around (ah no, I take back that last part...) and create something of their own. They're not even two and a half yet, but they ask me for crafting materials to "make" things - or whatever you might call it when a toddler gets busy with a pair of scissors. They love play dough, but the first couple of times I gave it to them, they wouldn't even touch it, they only wanted me to build something for them. And if anyone knows why they always request washing machines (I've now mastered these in play dough as well as pencil and paper!), please tell me...

At this point, I have to be honest - sometimes I just end up sitting on a tiny chair, at a tiny little table, using plastic toddler scissors doing crafts labeled as toddler friendly while the boys go fight over who gets to ride the bobby car first.

This brings me to the most important reason for me to craft with my kids: because I love crafting. Simple as that. I find it relaxing to sew up a cuddly soft toy, or a loop scarf out of some cute knit fabric that I couldn't resist buying. And doing this not only when my kids are around (in addition to when they're in bed), but even with them is so much more fun! Currently, their favorite household appliance is my sewing machine - quite an improvement on the last one, the vacuum cleaner.

L now often picks up something and asks "Can? we?! sew this?" - "You want to sew pajamas?" - "Yes, this!" - "Okayyyyy. Shall we finish this birthday present for N first?" - "Yeaaaaah :-D L help mommy, yes?" And then he'll sit on my knee and pull the pins out of the fabric as I ask him to and place them in the pincushion. And is the proudest little boy ever. Then E will join us, and the two of them will keep reminding each other to be very careful, because pins are "dangerous". Honestly, I could spend all day doing this. My two little vikings not so much, they'll just wander off and get busy on other things after five minutes. But hey, often these will be the best five minutes of my day (think diapers, cleaning, cooking, arguing about whether or not we'll go to bed - now, trying not to fall asleep during the day or trying to get some sleep at night).

And now that I think back on my own childhood, what are the things I remember? How sad I was when I really wanted to play a board game, but no one wanted to join in, or my mother agreed to play with me (sigh), but then wouldn't pay attention for a single second and just walk away after the first round ("Sorry, I have to ..."). My parents nowadays often proudly tell me how well I could play on my own. I would sit in my room for hours and not be heard of, playing with my dolls or reading books or listening to audio books. Am I the only one who finds this a little sad?

But I also remember those things we did together. When my mom took a sewing course and then taught me some of the skills she'd just learned, and let me sew hairbands and doll "clothes" on her sewing machine. When my dad, who used to run a bus company, took me on day trips and vacations, and I was sitting on the seat behind him, looking forward to what was ahead of us (even if he had to attend to the other people on board rather than me, and I was expected to help clean the bus). And in the evenings, he would take the time to play Monopoly or Uno with me. For hours. And I must have been outstanding at these games, because I always won. There was a time when mom and dad took me to our local swimming pool every Saturday, which I loved. I even remember that brown and orange cap I had to wear in the pool, and my mom's ruffled beige one. Did my dad have one that matched mine, or am I making this up?

I have very fond memories of spending whole afternoons in the garden with my granddad. Who didn't even complain all too much when I picked him a bunch of flowers and we didn't have any strawberries that year (lesson learned for life, I can tell you). And of my grandma making the tastiest chocolate puddings and plum pies in the world, and we'd come in from the garden and sit around the kitchen table and enjoy.

Now what do my boys enjoy doing? Crafting with me, as I said, and singing songs - especially E runs around "singing" a few half lines of songs I often sing for them, and then comes asking me to sing it to him again (L doesn't like that and has more often than not asked me to please shut up - just in case you were wondering how well I could sing). They both love "playing" the guitar "with" daddy or grandpa, or experimenting on their own with the keyboard they got for their birthday. Our "swimming" class (guess what? It's on Saturdays).

Mowing the lawn with grandpa is another favorite. Unfortunately, that stupid lawn doesn't grow fast enough for daily workouts. And baking or cooking with grandma (or daddy, or me, in that order). Doing the laundry. "Cleaning" windows (we're still working on the outcome of that). Playing together, mostly pretend shop or cafe ("A coffee please." - "Yes. Will take a minute. ... There." - "Here's money." - "No, don't need that. - "Yesss! Take!!!" - "Noooo! Stop iiiit! Don't want! Mommy help!!!!!"). Doing puzzles or building Duplo on their own. Watching "Pettson + Findus" on DVD (yes, I let them watch TV from time to time, and yes, mostly when all of us need a little break, and yes, yes, yes, I think that's okay).

I don't really have to spell it out, right? My idea about what makes childhood memories? Being allowed to take part in whatever the rest of the family enjoys doing or even in the chores they have to do. Of course I don't know what my boys will remember in 20 years, or 40. But if I look back at my childhood and compare that to my boys', it's the good things I want to re-create for them, not the play-in-my-room-alone-for-hours part. I think we're on a good way here. With or without 5,000 pins on Pinterest.

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