I don't know if you know this, but I am a craft-aholic. I love crafts. Scrapbooking is my favorite, decorating cakes is a close second, but pretty much anything will do. I love making things with my hands that people can ooh and aah over. Not that I necessarily need the ooh-ing and aah-ing, but it is nice when people can appreciate your work. I digress... The point is, I love crafts, so you can imagine my excitement when a school project comes up. I get all giddy and happy and start thinking about all the things I can buy at Michael's to make it look just perfect.
Mario came home with a project last week. He has to make an Ecosystem diorama in a shoebox. Complete with animals, producers and decomposers. A very detailed project with lots of room for my-- I mean HIS -- genius imagination. He decided on the Grassland. My mind started racing with all the totally rockin' things we could do to make the other kids' boxes look like a 2nd grader did them. Oh. Wait. They ARE second graders.
But, that is the thing. It is SO DAMN HARD to let go and let your child do things the way he or she wants. I'm not even going to get into the existential stuff here, I am just talking about plain, old, simple dioramas for a class project.
Mario and I sat down at the kitchen table with an empty shoe box and started to get to work. It went a little something like this...
Me: Ok, Mario, how do you want to make your ecosystem?
Mario: Well, I was thinking we could use play-doh to make the animals, that's what other kids do.
Me: That is a great idea, but you know what would be even better? Let's make them out of sparkle pipe cleaners!
Me: (handing Mario a piece of green construction paper) Go ahead and start cutting out the grass for your grassland.
Mario: (snipping away at square pieces of paper) How is this Mom?
Me: Wow! How about if I show you a different way to do it that will make it look really cool? (proceed to take paper and scissors away from Mario and cut grass on my own.)
At that point in time, I glanced over at Bowser, who was giving me a look that said, "lay off and let the kid use his ideas!" I realized then what I was doing. I was totally stifling my son's creativity. He had some really great ideas, and I kept telling him how to do it better or different. I felt terrible. So, when Mario told what he wanted to do for flowers and butterflies, I let him take the lead.
It was difficult at first to let him take over, when I had a grand vision in my head of a professional looking, museum quality landscape. But, once I was able to let go, I found that he actually did a great job. When I listened to his thoughts and helped him bring them to life, it actually turned out to be pretty darn awesome. The best part was that Mario and I had a great time doing something together other than watching television or playing a video game. When we were done we made fun little things out of pipe cleaners and he said, "Wow, Mommy! You are so cool! You are the best at this!" ...sigh... Isn't that just the epitome of parenthood? When your kid thinks you are just the cat's meow, you know you must be doing something right.
Mario got most of the work done tonight, with me sitting on the sidelines helping him when he needed it, but mostly just watching his amazing brain at work. Normally, after he went to bed, I would fiddle with it just enough to make it look "my way," but not enough for him to notice I did anything. Not tonight. It is sitting on our kitchen table right now, paint and glue drying, and all I did was put it out of reach so that no Koopa Troopas or little Goombas could get to it and destroy it. Look at me! I am making progress. You know, I just might get this Mommy thing down yet.