Today’s guest post is from Sarah Dunning Park. I had the privilege of receiving a review copy of her book a while back, and after I read it, I wrote: “Sarah Dunning Park has given parents of young children a great gift in this book. She has taken the quotidian life of laundry and minivans and squabbling children and exhausted moms and dads and made it beautiful.” I’m sure you’ll feel the same way after reading her words today. (And might I suggest this slender book as a perfect Mother’s Day Gift for any number of moms you know?)
As a child, I loved nothing better than doing arts and crafts. I’d connect the dots and color. I’d write short stories and draw pictures to accompany them. I’d make inventions out of scraps of cloth, clothespins, and cardboard. Later on, as a college student, I majored in Art and Art History, and as an adult, I’ve worked in the fields of stained glass restoration and illustration.
Now I have three elementary-aged children, and it would stand to reason that I’d be a crafts-oriented mom. But no — the idea of getting out paints and brushes and smocks? The mess and the hassle! It’s all I can do to make dinner and attempt to vanquish our ever-present pile of laundry.
However, I’ve seen in both myself and my kids that the act of creating fills a need. Without it, we all get crabby. Sometimes cooking a new dish fills this need for me; at other times, only carving out time and space for writing will do.
I still don’t bring out the kids’ paints or modeling clay all that regularly. It’s important to honor your own tolerance levels. But I’ve tried to make less-messy raw materials available to my kids at all times: paper, pencils, tape, scissors, cardboard, yarn, scraps of cloth.
Having kids has reminded me that we all need space for the act of processing and making, and that no one thrives by being constantly hemmed in by rules and constraints. I’ve always wanted my ducks in a row — but it’s easy to get to the end of a day and find that it was entirely taken up with checking off boxes and doing the responsible thing.
A day like that makes my children mutinous. And if I’m honest, it does the same to me.
I write about this tension — feeling overwhelmed and wanting to say no to my kids, but finding the value in acquiescing — in my poem, “Let there be Yes.” It’s one of the poems from my new book of poetry, What It Is Is Beautiful: Honest Poems for Mothers of Small Children (http://www.amazon.com/What-
Let there be Yes
I say no to them all the time:
No, you may not eat candy bars for breakfast,
color pictures on the carpet,
wear your tutu to the store again.
And stop blowing bubbles in your milk,
or abandoning your warm bed
after I’ve tucked you in.
Perhaps it’s the wisdom of age,
or that this is not their full-time gig,
but their grandmothers have another way:
Yes, let’s make projects with plenty of glitter and paint,
matching costumes for you and your bear,
hot chocolate for watching movies
on a Saturday morning in June.
I decide to try it myself,
tentatively — Sure, I suppose we can
bring out the modeling clay today.
So we spread an old vinyl cloth on the table,
and dump the box that holds baggies of red and black,
blue, green, and yellow. From my post in the kitchen,
I watch them settle in to their work.
It’s quiet; no one complains
of boredom or hunger
or cunningly-orchestrated breaches of room security
carried out by little sisters. The only requests
are for assistance rolling up an errant sleeve
or for a toothpick to carve out fine details
and at last, the artist’s signature.
As she bends over her masterpiece
to scratch the letters of her name,
I understand what it is my mother must know
when she says yes to these young creators:
we are wired to make, and we can make
trouble, or we can make goodness and art
and meaning and sustenance and play.
© Sarah Dunning Park, 2012, from What It Is Is Beautiful (http://www.amazon.com/dp/
Do you see in yourself or your kids the need for a creative outlet? How have you balanced trying to meet these needs while still staying sane in your home? Leave a comment on this post or these questions, and you’ll be entered in a drawing to receive a free copy of Sarah’s new book.
Sarah Dunning Park is the author of What It Is Is Beautiful: Honest Poems for Mothers of Small Children (http://www.amazon.com/dp/