Come on, hands-up – which of you has ever embarked on a craft project with your child that you know is over-complex? My hand is up. I know I am guilty of this.
When my son was 18 months old he loved cars. (He still does.) I decided it would be a great idea for us to work together to make him a car from boxes, toilet rolls and bottle tops. He’d been walking for only 2 months, and was still in a high chair. But I persisted. It would be GREAT I told myself. He’ll LOVE it. What a fabulous way for us to bond.
I was so full of my own cleverness of course that I totally lost that this was supposed to be about him, and for him. And I made it all about me.
We found boxes together, and he then sat getting increasingly frustrated whilst I manically tried to glue toilet rolls to cereal boxes. Why does it look so easy on the TV shows? He started crying. I nearly did too. After half an hour I triumphantly presented my poor sobbing lad with a “car”. He threw it on the floor.
I don’t blame him.
I tried to learn my lesson, but even now when one of my angelic charges approaches me to ask if we can make or paint something I find it hard to rein in my own natural enthusiasm to go large. What they really want, and need most of the time, is to do it simply. And in their own way.
Today my daughter reminded me of this. We embarked on a painting session. She wanted to use small delicate brushes, so we did, and I painted too. I was enjoying myself a lot, I’m no Picasso but the act of taking time out to be creative is very therapeutic. I lost myself in my picture and became aware she had started mixing paint with straws and daubing big blobs on her arms. A sure sign that boredom had set in.
“I’d like to hand paint” she announced. Wrenching myself away from my own mini work of art I realised I had done it again. I looked at her pleading face and reminded myself of the phrase I so often heard in corporate life:
Keep It Short and Simple
So we did. She wanted to make a flag, a single hand-print either side of a sheet of white paper, and stapled to a garden cane. That was it, and it worked a treat, I hope you like the picture. She was delighted. And I was once again reminded that the simple things often make them the happiest.
Her creation has become the KISS Flag, my emblem and reminder to listen to what my children need. I’m sure I’ll forget again, but hey, I’m only human!