My friend, Jill, has two adorable little boys. (They’re almost as cute as my two boys are, but I let Jill go ahead and think her boys are cuter. It’s what Jesus would want me to do, even though He knows it’s not true.)
Jill is also a teacher. Like… a REAL teacher (and not just a PE teacher), who knows how to make Christmas trees out of numerous green-painted handprints on canvas, with a brown-painted foot for the trunk. Of course it’s artwork that’s Pinterest worthy, because… well… IT’S JILL. And Jill is incredibly talented. She can teach sight words and introduce addition and make rainbow fish out of old computer discs, all before the macaroni noodles boil for lunch.
I, on the other hand, can teach children how to play a mean game of kickball. My spiritual gifts do not lay in the area of preschool art.
Of course Jill puts pictures of her boys making memories on Facebook all the time, and I pound on the LIKE IT button, because those boys are stinking cute. I usually end up commenting on her pictures that I’ll be enrolling Thing 2 in her Montessori School for Gifted Toddlers, as long as he passes the rigorous application and interview process and gets in. I’m banking on Jill teaching art to my baby.
I’ve just never been relaxed enough to do toddler art in my own home. When the boy was four (FOUR!!!), I signed him up for a preschool art class at the local rec center, where he discovered GLUE and GLITTER.
Specifically, he discovered that eighteen pounds of white Elmer’s glue on construction paper can hold forty-seven pounds of glitter dust. He was overcome with happy emotions, people. He wanted to know all about glitter… Was it a new substance, that was just invented? Why haven’t we used it before? Where could he get more? He begged and begged for glitter…
… and I shot him down, because my OCD, Type-A+, firstborn personality couldn’t handle glitter indoors. I had a hard enough time carrying his glue-and-glitter-laden artwork inside from the car and laying it flat, flat, FLLLLLAATTTT on the dining room table to dry. I would say things like, “Under no circumstances are you to set this artwork UPRIGHT, because the glitter will fall off like the morals on a shady politician, and we will NEVER get it all out of our home!”
And the boy listened, because the boy is very obedient.
My house remained full of clean sparkles, that had nothing to do with the sun reflecting off the glitter art.
Play Doh was another story. I didn’t love Play Doh indoors, but, with appropriate drop clothes and alarm sensors, we used it. When the boy turned six, Mam bought him an enormous Rubbermaid tub FILLED TO THE BRIM with Play Doh tools. There were plastic scissors and pizza cutters. He got smooth rolling pins and textured rolling pins and rolling pins with shapes. He got crimpers and squeezers and shapers in every color.
And our boy USED those toys, while Mama breathed into a paper bag nearby, as she focused on the ENDING MESS she would have.
Then Thing 2 came along.
You should see our house now. It’s no longer show-quality for a cleaning product commercial on TV. In fact, our home sort of looks like a warehouse room in an episode of Storage Wars. I have given up on ALL THE CLEAN, because Thing 2 just walks behind me and chucks stuff out of cabinets, drawers and boxes, in a perpetual, whirlwind of motion. A few months ago, I decided that I could either take up smoking and drinking to cope…
… or I could give up my Upper Level of cleanly living.
I’ve never even handled secondhand smoke well, so I knew what was going to happen.
So now our house is a constant wreck. More days than not, it looks like we’ve been ransacked and robbed, but I still refuse to buy glitter and try it out.
… I found the tub of Play Doh toys in a closet this weekend. I took three, deep, fortifying breaths, and I showed the brightly-colored gadgets to Thing 2. And then I stripped him out of his lovely, blue-argyle, Gymboree polo, because Gymboree never intended for their clothes to be in close proximity to homemade, GREEN-DYED Play Doh or spaghetti sauce. I put Thing 2 in his high chair, strapped him in for good measure, set everything in front of him, and just stepped back.
The result was that our toddler entertained himself with genuine wonderment and merriment for FORTY-FIVE ENTIRE MINUTES!!
And he only ate A LITTLE Play Doh.
Thing 2 pounded and kneaded and rolled and squished green Doh. He smashed it and chopped it and hollered with excitement over it.
And Mama got through it just fine!
Baby steps, people. Baby steps.
Does anything exist that is cuter than BABY TOES?!
I think not.
But we’re still going to Jill’s house when the lesson plans call for glitter and glue.