Yesterday, I took my two preschool-aged boys to the weekly “Arts and Crafts Day” at a local educational supply store. It’s a chance for them to get out and get creative, and I don’t have to clean up the mess. Even if their finished products aren’t much to look at, the kids always have a great time.
When we arrived yesterday morning, there was another little boy there with his mom. He looked to be about two years old, and he was not feeling it. His mother was working very hard to have him replicate the sample craft that was provided for us, and he was very vocal with his protests. My boys sat down and immediately went to work making their own creations, scratching out their own design on the scratch paper and sticking jeweled stickers wherever they saw fit (including on their faces). The other mother shot an annoyed look at my boys, and then continued trying to get her son to help her draw a sun and flowers and make a butterfly out of tissue paper. Her little boy continued to scream and try to escape her lap.
My boys soon lost interest in crafting and decided they wanted to explore the store. As I packed up our stuff, the other mom stole a glance at their “artwork.” “Oh. Those are cute, I guess,” she said, rolling her eyes. As we turned to walk away, I heard her say to her son, “Ours looks better.”
I looked at my boys, but they were too busy playing with a wind-up monkey to notice what she had said. I looked at the woman and her visibly unhappy son, and I couldn’t even get angry with her. She saw parenting as a competition, and in her eyes, the child with the best looking art project was the winner. I’ve done this long enough to know that raising children isn’t about having “better” kids; it’s about having happy kids. It’s about raising kids who can find the joy in everyday life, so they can be adults who do the same.
I’m not a competitive person by nature, so I won’t pretend to understand what motivated that mom to compare her son to my boys. I will say that, given the choice, I’ll take a happy child with an ugly craft over a crying child with a perfect craft any day of the week. What I wish this mom, and all of us moms, would realize is that we can all be winners in the parenting game. No matter our parenting styles or methods, if we are intentional about spending time with our children, everybody wins.
Yes, my boys’ crafts were ugly. But the smiles on their faces as they made them were beautiful, and that’s what matters to me.