Creative License

November 14, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Posted in Giggles, Lollipop, Me | 21 Comments
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We got a Christmas tree this weekend. (Are we nuts, or what?)

And we put it together. I’m sitting on the couch looking at it right now. (Are we really nuts, or what?)

But Lollipop and Giggles got so excited about it. I’m talking jumping-up-and-down-hands-clapping-tiny-voices-squealing-Christmas-is-magic-is-Santa-coming-tonight excited. How could we say no?

And then, while my husband was sleeping off a sinus infection and longing for Mucinex, the kids and I made ornaments. I scoured Pinterest for ideas. I even pulled out the glitter pens and bag of confetti sparkles I had been saving for when the first blizzard comes and we’re snowed into our apartment surrounded by Lego towers and put-together puzzles and longing for pizza delivery.

I found an equally easy and adorable idea for hand-print reindeer. I mapped out the logistics in my head and made substitutions for the supplies we didn’t have. (Interestingly, Romania does not stock googly eyes.) I gathered the children and traced their beautiful hands on brown foam. They chose pipe cleaners for antlers (purple for Lollipop, red for Giggles). And off we went.

Mommy and her darlings sitting ’round the table crafting together. Just as I had planned.


They decided to give their reindeer red-glitter eyes. They glued heart and bow sparkles on the collar where the gold sequins/bells should have gone. They squirted glob after glob of teal glitter-glue on the reindeer bodies. When Giggles slapped a green birthday cake on his reindeer face, I made one of those low guttural growls I’m pretty sure lions make before they pounce on an unsuspecting antelope herd.

Every bone in my mothering body (even the broken one) wanted to “correct” them. To remind them of the adorable finished product we were shooting for. To tell them that reindeer do not, in fact, have bling on their hooves.

I didn’t. I kept my mouth shut. It was very, very hard.

As the dominating perfectionist corner of my brain battled with the teeny-tiny enclave of spontaneity a few synapses over, I watched my children laughing, thinking, and sharing. I watched them exclaim over sparkles shaped like flowers and stars and footprints and witches on brooms. I watched them have fun.

Two hours of fun. How could I interrupt that, simply because they weren’t doing it “my” way? It was a hard mothering lesson, one of those that reminds you you’re raising creatures with fragile spirits that need nurturing, not a manicured iron fist.

If I’m honest, I can’t say I’m entirely pleased with the finished product. But they are. And even my perfectionist brain knows that’s most important.

Besides, I bet Picasso’s mom felt the same way from time to time. And look how that turned out.

When it comes to parenting, how do you do what you know is right, instead of what you want? How do you nurture your children’s creativity? What are your favorite Christmas crafts? 


Fluffy Bunnies in Romania:
Read the tales
See the photos.



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  1. Oh, yes. When it’s time to do arts & crafts, I have to just let them have at it. If I want something the way i want it, I will have to make it myself. And that’s okay. I can be much stricter when we’re baking or cooking together. Cooking, especially baking, has rules! 😉

    • Maybe that’s why I so rarely bake with the kids. Mine are obsessed with eggs, and I just can’t bear to let them take a crack at it (am I funny, or what?) yet.

  2. You are nuts. In fact, I’m going to pretend I didn’t even read about the Christmas tree, because it can’t be next month already. Those reindeer are darling, even if a bit unique. I would have had to put tape over my mouth to stop from correcting it, because I’m a perfectionist when it comes to that stuff, too. But they’re really better this way.

  3. Ha! I’m a perfectionist too. You should have seen me this weekend, trying to stay out of Miss D.’s science fair project. It wasn’t pretty.

  4. So funny! Yes, it’s hard when we want them to do it the way we want, but their way is so much …. prettier and glitterier (if that’s a word). What a fun experience you gave them, most of all they have the memory and will think of you as being fun. AND you’re not giving them fodder for the future therapist, which is a win. 😀

  5. I love this! (And I would have had to take deep breaths the whole time too.)

    In a few years you’ll pull those decorations out of the box. You’ll forget it was every supposed to be a reindeer. Instead, you’ll marvel about how little their hands were and remember your fun crafty afternoon in Romania.

  6. It is so hard, isn’t it? Comparing the mental picture with the real situation in front of your eyes? Oh so hard not to step in. Good job Mama! 🙂 Did you make one for yourself, the way you wanted it done?

    • I didn’t. But I’m still thinking about it. Maybe I’ll trace Bun’s hand and make one for him … That sounds legit, right?

      Also, we used the sparkles and glitter-glue from your care package! The kiddos LOVED it. Obviously. =>

  7. […] 14: The hole story. The kiddos and I spent a few hours on Sunday making ornaments for our Romanian Christmas tree. There were glitter pens. There were sparkles. There were pipe […]

  8. I love Pinterest! They have such great ideas don’t they? I was in a craft store for my daughter’s birthday party and decided to get some Christmas projects for us to work on. I am really looking forward to it as I think she’s finally ready to sit still for them, although I think it’s more about me practicing patience and letting go of my need to dictate and direct.

    I’m not a perfectionist – I just like things done my way and it wreaks havoc to my system when my daughter does her own thing instead of my thing. Ahem. I’m still working on that, needless to say. The letting them be themselves and not us part is HARD.

  9. I don’t do crafts with the kids. We do lots of free form art stuff, but once I get an idea in my head, I want it to be like that! and well, we both know that isnt good for anyone. Though I do love making ornaments. Maybe we’ll try the reindeer. I’ll just have to eat caramel the whole time so I cant talk. The terrible things I’ll put up with…

    I don’t know when our tree will get up, but I love the tree and the lights!

  10. Wow you pretty much summed up so MUCH of my frustrations with parenting – frustrations that I know are WRONG. And yet, isn’t it so hard to remain quiet? My kids help clean up the kitchen and it is all I can do to not be TOO much of a perfectionist. It’s different than crafts – it’s definitely a chore – but still, how much is “right” actually right? Great job letting those creative juices flow. I am so lame when it comes to that I think my kids wouldn’t even know what to do if I suggested doing them.

  11. I was just thinking today that I wish I could go back to the time when I didn’t feel the need to color things the correct color. When I could look at a dog and think: orange teeth, brown head, purple legs and yellow tail, PERFECT. It’s hard, so so hard sometimes to let their creativity run but oh boy, is it worth it.

  12. […] train tracks our Romanian friend gave us. We improvise our way through art projects, coming up with creative substitutions for googly eyes, construction paper, and pipe cleaners. We eat our Barni cake and Tedi juice while […]

  13. Hopping over from Not to Brag. LOVE THIS. I also cringe whenever my kids are working on a craft. Such a good reminder. The perfectionist needs to LET GO!

  14. I felt your pain when that green birthday cake sticker hit the reindeer’s face. Letting go is a challenge in almost every arena of parenting (except in the potty arena), but how exciting to see our kids growing, learning, creating, and having fun! We had to write a note in the class book for Bub’s kindergarten last night. All the other parents/families see the note when the book hits their house. Some family notes were works of art, and I wanted ours to measure up. So did Bub, but he wanted to contribute to that work of art. Our visions were different, but I let him do his thing. It wasn’t “pretty” but I think it was the right thing.

  15. Does having the tree up make you feel like you’re not so far from home? (But of course, what’s home, really?) I love the sight of our Christmas tree–and love decorating it with the kids. I also love the way the multicolor lights make my porch look soft and warm before the coldness really sets in.

  16. I totally know what you mean. When my son was around 3 I used to wince seeing him color Thomas the Train green or purple or, gasp! multicolored. Then it was only a matter of time when he would choose the exact right blue. By that time I’d begun feeling differently; I knew that he was beginning to understand a bit of society’s “rules,” which meant that a bit of his creativity had to be suppressed. You’re smart to just let your kids be – this is the most free they’ll ever feel!

  17. […] See, I don’t have any of the other crafty goodness I mentioned above. I’m having to improvise. To let go of perfection. To lower my creative standards. And be cheerful about it. (You saw how that turned out with the reindeer.) […]

  18. Boy, Stacia, that’s a lesson I never learned unfortunately. I’m an old grandma and still trying to get it right. This is the mother who wouldn’t let Matthew play with his huge Tonka dumptruck outside because he might get it dirty — yes, that’s an absolutely true story! He says I warped him for life (LOL).

  19. The year my mother died was the the same year my husband started graduate school in a new state where I knew no one. It wasn’t a foreign country or anything, but I was lonely and alone. I so remember that Christmas and the ornaments the kids made. When I pull them out of the box I hold them as if my heart might break instead of those VERY imperfect ornaments.

    What you will remember about this Christmas is NOT how imperfect everything was but how treasured everything from this era will become to you. You are making rich, rich memories even though it feels so thick with loneliness now.


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