Tuesday, March 11, 2014

This creative child


I really, really need to learn to embrace messes.

I think that some of it comes down to a paradox I can't explain:

Why is it that as I get shorter (I'm two inches shorter than I was in my 30's), the ground gets farther away?

Cleaning, especially that which puts me on my knees, is not a task I have ever enjoyed, looked forward to, or taken as a source of pride. It gets in the way of almost anything else I want to do. So, my approach is to keep things sort of clean from the get-go.

I got schooled by my sister-in-law last night on this. She did some fun "experimentation" with Jay and his cousin Max. The last game had the boys covering their hands with baking soda, while she poured vinegar over them. Yes, the old home-made rocket fuel. The boys loved it. This was done over a glass cake pan. The vinegar collected in the baking-soda-lined pan. Then, the obvious happened. Max slapped his hands in the pan. And again. And again. Jay got into the act, and soon the boys were covered in sticky paste. As was the floor, the dining room table, and several relatives. They had an absolute blast. 

And, it was cleaned up in minutes. A small price to pay for THAT much fun, I would have to say.

I really gotta learn to lighten up.

So, that's on my "better dad" agenda these days. Along with that is an effort to use more positive words, and to develop an overall "why not?" ethos, rather than doing the Hollywood slo-mo "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO..." every time I see something out of order. 

Poor kid. Dad's kind of a wimp when it comes to a rapidly-expanding work load. It IS exhausting, but hey. What else am I here to do? I want him to explore. I want unfamiliar things to hold endless possibilities. Well, okay, not endless. "Should I stick it up my nose?" and "Should I stick it up Daddy's nose?" would be two possibilities on which we don't need to follow through. But for the most part, I hope he'll have an enterprising curiosity. 

For me, creativity is just that. It's saying "I know the rules, but what else is there?" It's seeing things without blinders, without self-imposed limitations about how to use, see, or process those things. If every paint is a finger paint, fine. Ummm... so long as the paint stays on the paper, right? That's okay, isn't it? As opposed to the refrigerator, the carpet, or the cat...

I just need to manage the setting better. Drop cloths, tarps, maybe a fire hose... kidding.


Really, it'll be about the power of encouragement, or the power of discouragement. The former needs to win. He's already in love with music, and dances and sings with contagious energy. That one's easy; you can't spill music all over the floor. Sort of. He does dig out his CDs and is close to being able to identify and play them on the stereo. There is often a need to pick them up and clean them off. It's a simple fix, but I cringe when I watch his chubby fingers smear jelly all over them. My solution is to rip the CDs onto my computer hard drive, and give him copies.

Painting is a growing love. Everything- paints, crayons, markers, are all washable these days. However, when you read the fine print, there are limitations- "may require repeat washings", and "wash immediately in hot water" are favorites. Still, what am I worried about? That he'll smear the red window crayon all over his cummerbund? It's not like we're that attached to most of his wardrobe. It's virtually all hand-me-downs from friends. So, at the very least he can wear one of my dirty-job tee-shirts when he wants to explore his inner Monet. If that's not enough, we'll wash repeatedly, immediately, in hot water. Or not.

I gotta lighten up.

I say "No" too quickly, and often too loudly. I feel like I am, way too often, the voice of "Nope." Jay has even learned that "Sorry" means that someone is about to be disappointed, and uses the word in that way with me. 

"Jay, please pick up your train tracks."

"Sorry, Daddy." 

Translation: No.

I'm working on it. Exposing him to books and the library, music and plays, and classes, are great starting points. However, if that isn't backed up when he gets home, it's not really going to take him anywhere, other than frustration. 

I think I just need to put more planning into it, to free my mind from the negatives, and to increase my own investment. My right brain is fully into it, but my left brain, the part that has to help clean up, to urge/ beg/ drag him back to clean up, that part of the brain which has to manage the home and animals and furniture and all of those other things, is lagging. 

This week, Wednesday and Thursday are looking like snow days. We're expecting 10-16 inches of snow, so we'll likely be house-bound. That's a long time to be tacked on after Tuesday/ library day. Normally Jay would be at daycare on Thursday, but I need to plan on the roads being unsafe for travel with him. So, I'll check on the paint supplies, maybe find a drop cloth, and dig out a couple of work shirts. If he trashes a few brushes, we can get more. Or, ask him how to use them now that they have no hair? We'll look up a few experiments, and stoke up that curiosity. 

There are worse things than being covered in baking soda. I'm potty-training a 2-year-old boy. I should know.

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