Craft Projects with the Grandchildren
A Large Patience Pill
The grandchildren are coming to spend the day. The children have often spent time at my house, but this is different. All three of them will be with me all day. Arriving on my doorstep in the early morning will be a twelve year old girl, a ten year old girl and a six year old boy.
I am prepared. I have spent time, energy, and funds in preparing some craft projects for us to do together.
Because I know how quickly time passes. I will have only so many chances for quality time with my grandchildren. Yada, yada, yada.
The real reason is that I do not want them to spend an entire day of their young lives in the company of their electronics. I want to have some fun.
Eagerly, I show the children the stack of options for us to make. The entire kitchen table is covered with beads, colors, sewing kits, wood kits, clay, and a dragon to be painted and assembled.
"Look!" I say.
The three of them look. The twelve-year-old says, "Do I have to?"
"Yes," I say.
The ten-year-old says, "Can I do the dragon?"
I hesitate only because the dragon is a challenging project that I thought Natasha, the oldest child, would like. "Yes," I say.
John, the six-year-old says, "I need some tools."
John goes to the garage and returns with a hammer, a screw driver, a socket wrench, and nails. He selects the birdhouse that came with glue. He clears a work space for himself and begins. At least the chain saw is out of reach.
I really knew but somehow had forgotten, that it is best not to offer too many choices. I wanted lots of stuff for us to do.
Tori, the middle child, takes the dragon and moves into the living room to be alone with her work. She does not need help. Occasionally she requests water, snacks, more water, and paper towels.
Natasha sits down at the table and decides to weave a tiny area rug from the potholder kit. I find this idea impressive. She gets a smiley face. She also pulls close to her the colored, soft clay. She then carefully moves away everything else. She finds my set of Harry Potter books and arranges them in a semi-circle barrier to mark her work space.
I move John and his tools to the work-bench in the garage. I help him assemble all his many and, to me unnecessary, tools. I show him the picture of what the birdhouse should look like when completed. He glances at it. I show him the paint tubes to paint the wood. He gives me a patient smile.
"Check on the girls," he tells me.
Accept What Happens
When I give room to be creative, then I must accept what happens. The birdhouse will likely not look like the picture on the box.
I switch out the big hammer for a small one. The large Philips screwdriver is quietly replaced with a small one from my sewing machine kit. The heavy wrench slips bit by bit into the distance.
As I watch, his little face is screwed in concentration at hammering a piece of roof onto a piece of wall. I try to carefully explain that his method will not work.
"Yes, it will, Grandma," he tells me.
Well, whatever he makes will be perfect. I am careful not to spend more than I can afford to lose. I am careful not to allow the result to be more important than the process.
The house is too quiet. I step into the kitchen to find blankets over the table. I say, "Natasha, what are you doing?"
"Working," she says. Her voice is muffled.
I start to lift the blanket that has effectively made the kitchen table into a tent. Natasha says, "Don't look, Grandma. It's a surprise."
Few things give me more pause than when a child tells me not to look because they are making a surprise. I glance around. The supplies have been moved from the table to the counter. The iPad is also on the counter. The trail mix has disappeared. I hear nothing but crunching.
"What do you have for light?" I inquire.
"Not candles, Grandma."
Now I have to peek. I lay flat on my stomach and pick up a corner of the blanket.
"I hear you, Grandma."
"I have to know," I say. "It's a question of your safety."
"For pity sake," Natasha says in an imitation of what I have often said to her. She covers her work with her hands while I look into the work space. Suspended with yarn from the underside of the table is a flashlight. On the tile floor is a dozen or so clay figures sitting on miniature area rugs. I do not know what is under her hands.
"You are a genius," I say.
She gives me a condescending smile. I do not need help to get up from the floor. Well, I wouldn't mind help, but I won't ask for it. "I'm fine," I tell no one in particular. No one answers.
I move to the living room. Tori is sitting in a pout on the couch. Her arms are crossed, and her cheeks are flushed. "Want to try something else?" I guess.
"How about you paint the pieces, and I will assemble them?"
"How about you sit on the couch and pout?"
"Can I watch TV?"
"Not yet. I have another idea."
She groans. I go to get John from the garage. I want him where I can see him.
Maintain an Emotional Distance
I do not want the delicate wood dragon to be ruined. However, I can not allow the ruination of a craft project to have an emotional impact. I offered. She tried. The project was too difficult. Now I must separate myself from it. Again, do not put more into a project than you can afford to lose.
I say, "John, why don't you and Tori paint the pieces and see what you can make."
John runs to the kitchen. He returns carrying the glue. I am grateful he has abandoned his tools for the time being. Tori climbs reluctantly from the couch and kneels at the coffee table. I bring new paint cups filled with water.
I put a bowl of grapes beside them, real grapes, not to be painted.
The two of them paint the pieces for twenty minutes or so before they declare themselves to be done. They dig John's race cars from his back-pack and go outside to play in the dirt track by the garden. No, they may not turn on the garden hose to make the track muddy.
We decide on a picnic lunch. No, I will not drive them to the park. We will have our picnic on the patio. I assure then that the wasps are gone.
I Have to Laugh
My day of projects lasted until lunch. Our picnic consisted of peanut-butter sandwiches, a vege- tray with ranch dressing, trail mix, and ice cream.
Grandpa came home. He took John in the garage. Initially, I'm sure, he intended to ask John to help put the tools back from whence they came. Soon, I heard an electric drill.
Natasha returned to her space under the table. She put her earphones in her ears, and I did not object. She is an intensely focused young lady.
Tori and I arranged pieces of painted wood pieces that looked a bit like dragon scales into a candy bowl. She hardly argued at all about cleaning the coffee table. Then we all watched a movie, How to Train Your Dragon.
I had visualized when mom and dad came for the children, we would show them a nice, neat and pretty table of projects we had made. Instead we all sat in front of the TV, eating pretzels.
I do have on my bookshelf a display of little clay figures sitting on woven rugs. Outside in the apple tree hangs a bird house. On my desk in my office is a bowl of painted wood. And in the closet is a box of craft supplies for another day.
I think next time I will ask the children what they would like to do when they come over. For this time, they coped rather well with what grandma wanted them to do.
John says, "Love you, Grandma. I'm glad I could help you out."