I love being able to combine two activities into one. I end up feeling clever and efficient. Tonight my combination activity was having my three year old daughter decorate the thank you notes I wrote on her behalf. I felt particularly good about this activity because it combines two of my parenting goals: teaching my daughter to be respectful, considerate and grateful and engaging her in creative activities.
I am a person who writes thank you notes. I think they are important and I like receiving them myself, although I have been told they are old-fashioned. That’s okay. My mother always made me write thank you cards promptly when I was growing up. She explained that if someone took the time, money and trouble to send you a present you could take the time and trouble to write them a note saying thank you. I agree with that. So now I make an effort to write them both for myself and for my daughter, and when she is old enough to write I will make her write her own. I think gratitude and consideration for others are key disciplines for a good life and any opportunity to practice these skills is useful.
I also really enjoy doing crafts with my daughter. Even better, she enjoys doing them with me. It’s gotten to the point that she’ll say to me “Let’s do crafts, Mommy!” which warms my heart. We have gone on shopping expeditions to our local arts and crafts store to stock up on materials (mostly stickers, paint, stamps and paper) which we keep in our craft box so we are ready to get creative on a moment’s notice. I’ve always loved arts and crafts stores but restrained myself because I didn’t have a good use, storage space, practical reasons, etc… to buy craft materials. Plus I didn’t have anyone to shop with (my husband, like most men I think, not finding any appeal at all in an arts and crafts store), and half the fun of shopping is doing it with someone else. Now I have a great excuse (I’m nurturing my child’s creativity! And her fine motor skills!) and a craft store shopping partner. My three year old and I carry our baskets through the store together (okay, she drags hers) and pick out items for future projects and she tells me she wants to pay (which I need to record and play back for her when she is a teenager!) and I explain that she didn’t bring her money and she hands me her invisible pretend money and I say thank you. I’m sure we provide massive entertainment for everyone else, but we’re having fun so it’s okay.
“Crafts” is usually our special mother daughter activity on weeknights when my husband goes out with friends. A few weeks ago we made a special toy jar for some of her little plastic figurines by decorating an empty pretzel barrel with stickers, drawings and contact paper. We have a plastic pumpkin to decorate in October and we’ll carve real ones this year when it is closer to Halloween. And tonight our fun craft activity was writing thank you notes. We found some plain notes and I wrote them out for her, and then she decorated them. My husband did actually help us with this, which was good since paint, ink stamps, stickers and a three year old is a combination requiring more adult supervision than I could manage and still write out notes. It all turned out pretty well by my standards: we had fun together, the mess stayed in the kitchen, the notes are written, they are reasonably legible, and they all have some touch of personalization from my daughter.
I hope my daughter will be a person who write thank you notes to others. I hope that she has a life filled with people who bless her in many ways and I hope she recognizes and appreciates that fact. I hope she reaches out to others in kindness and consideration and makes an effort to let others know they matter to her. And I hope over time my daughter’s love for crafts will turn into a creative hobby. Fiber arts (quilting, crocheting, knitting, cross stitch) in particular seem to run in our family, but if she doesn’t inherit that I hope she finds something she loves. I want her to be in touch with a part of herself that is joyful and vital. I attended a seminar through a church once in which a friend demonstrated her craft and spoke about how her own artistry and creativity reflected something of G-D’s nature – how when we create we are participating in our own small way in G-D’s joy in making new things. As I guide my daughter in creating something beautiful with her life, I hope that she remembers decorating thank you notes.