Connecting through creativity and art

art2Doing art projects and other creative activities with my kids is something that’s very important to me. As a child, I always disliked Art Class because I knew I wasn’t very good at art, but starting when my oldest son was 2, I wanted to make art a part of his life. I wanted to let it be something he could enjoy, whether or not he was good at it.

Over the last few years, art has been a way for us to connect, have fun, and learn.

Allowing children opportunities to create their own art is a wonderful way to help instill creativity and confidence. It can also provide sensory experiences, fine motor activities, and chances to learn about different styles of art.

To first get started with art activities, I spent some time walking around a craft store and selecting items that either seemed like the basics (paint, markers, and glue) or like they’d be really fun (googly eyes and pompoms). While I was there, I also picked up some 5d diamond painting kits for myself to break my hiatus and resume my painting hobby. I also got project ideas from the many blogs dedicated to toddler and preschool art.

Our activities have been very different based on my children’s ages. When my son was 2 and we were just starting, we did a lot of finger painting, sensory activities with things like rice and oatmeal, and water play with cups, bowls, and spoons.  As a preschooler, he experimented with painting with strange objects like ribbons and flowers, and we explored some famous artists. I loved painting of few artists and also decided to hung it at my home for him, so after seeing painting he can get more interest into painting. I decided to get a Pet paint by visiting the custom painting online. Now that he’s 6, we’ve been getting art books from the library for him to select project ideas from, and he’ll help pick out art supplies that he wants to use.

We both try our best to remember that it’s about having fun, not about having a perfect finished product.

When my second and third children were born, I found ways to get them involved in art at an earlier age. I found baby-friendly activities, such as filling a container with colorful tissue paper or a variety of fabric scraps with different textures, and placing paint and a paper inside a sealed plastic bag for them to smoosh around and make their first paintings — completely mess-free.art3

For us, art has been one way to connect. After my second child was born, it was also a way to have some much-needed one-on-one time with my oldest son while his baby brother was napping. For other families, there may be different but equally fulfilling ways of achieving this, if art isn’t interesting to you or it’s not something you can make time for right now. It’s important to explore and find your own ways of connection.

A mother’s reflections on her decision to honor her child’s spirit

girl dandelion wishI dropped off my 10-year-old daughter at the art museum for another fun, creative day of summer camp. I hovered by the Admissions Desk, watching the kids get settled in.  As part of their morning warm-up, the kids hang out in the museum’s atrium, and while they wait for their peers to arrive, they engage in free-play and stretching exercises.  Afterwards, they head upstairs to start their day creating beautiful works of art — expressing their artistic, distinctive, creative selves.

My daughter stood out from the rest of the crowd with her signature ears headband she has been sporting since she was 7 years old and bright, mismatching clothes: shorts, knee-high socks and a big, bright green beach bag she had decided was the perfect accessory even though they don’t go to the pool — who am I to argue?

She was sitting on the third step of a four-step staircase. With much enthusiasm and confidence, she pulled out a thick book from her bag and started to read. I felt a sense of profound delight in watching her: She seemed so peaceful and content. Unlike many girls her age, she doesn’t look to her right or her left for directions — she looks within herself and marches to the beat of her own drum…oh, how I love that about her! Countless adults spend their entire lives struggling to reach that place of inner tranquility. I marvel that she is already there.

I looked around and noticed that all the other kids were nearby on the platform at the top of the staircase. They were interacting with one another, playing or chatting. Not my girl — she was reading intently, oblivious to everything around her.

I thought to myself how it is apparent that she didn’t blend in with the crowd, and I felt a little tug in my stomach. Like most other parents, I wish for my kids to fit in and be socially adept. I was thinking that, during our drive back home, I should gently suggest that she socialize during the morning warm-up instead of reading a book.

I then looked to my right where my social butterfly — my 7-year-old son — was standing, and I chuckled. Here was my other child who thrives on being around his peers and playing with them…all day long! As for reading books? You may have guessed it: He is not a fan!

I had recognized that my daughter’s social barometer is different than her brother’s and perhaps most of her peers — to reach her inner balance, she needs a different ratio between “me-time” and “friends-time.” In that moment, I understood that I ought to just let her be, knowing she is a healthy, well-rounded, well-adjusted child.

I needed this reminder, because I wholeheartedly believe that as parents, we ought to honor and respect who our kids are and support the needs of their individual spirits — allowing them to be their authentic selves.

Our children are not blocks designed to fit perfectly into a designated box. They are each unique, with their own shape and characteristics. The most creative, successful people are the ones who exist and think outside of the box — heck, they may not even be aware there is a box! Conforming for the sake of “blending in” or “fitting in” is diminishing their ability to blossom and dimming the light of their soul. 

I am pleased that my daughter chooses not to blend in at times. It fills my heart with bliss to watch her shine as her beautiful soul blossoms.

The Struggles of Being Attached: Is It Worth It?

Is being an attachment parent worth it? Let’s face it, it can be tough.

I co-slept — with kicking kids who woke up repeatedly during the night, all night long. One night my youngest kicked me in the breast so hard that I developed a massive lump and had to get an emergency mammogram to make sure it wasn’t going to explode or fall off. But the worst thing? I was so sleep deprived that I didn’t even wake up when it happened….
… Our friends who Ferberized their kids boasted about what great sleepers their kids were. “Little Johnny sleeps through the night and doesn’t wake until 8:00. Sometimes I have to wake him up for breakfast!”

I nursed — when my breasts were so sore that I’d have cut them off and hung them on the wall if I’d had the option. Breastfeeding hurt so bad with my middle child that I would start crying as soon as she woke up hungry, even before she latched on…
… My friends would pull out a little bottle, shake some sticky powder into it, and pop a plastic nipple into Little Suzy’s mouth, who happily gulped it down. I even had a friend who had one of those bottles with the long tube attached to the nipple, since she couldn’t even be bothered with holding her baby to eat.

I carried them — my newborns, my toddlers, and my preschoolers for a thousand miles, sometimes more than one kid at a time (thank goodness they were small!). Sometimes one would be in a backpack, one would be in a sling, and one would be on my hip or holding my hand….
… My friends would be (choose one) dragging their kids along by the hand because they didn’t want to cooperate, lugging immensely heavy carseats, or pushing them apathetically along in a stroller.

I responded with sensitivity — well, that is, pretended to be patient, endlessly giving words of reassurance or encouraging mediation, while my inner voice was screaming behind my ears, “Just stop it, already!”…
… My friends would pull their kids behind a fence and give them a swat or two, or maybe put them in time out. Problem solved.

My friends — wonderful, loving, committed, but decidedly non-AP friends — would look at me with a sorry mixture of pity, confusion, and something bordering embarrassment as I stuck to my guns, refusing to spank my kids, punish them, or demean them.

Clearly, some of my friends thought that I was coddling my children, perhaps even dooming them to a life of feeling entitled and being unfulfilled.

But I tried my best to treat my kids with the same respect that I would want. They had just as much value and deserved just as much respect as I did. Why would I want to teach them that the world doesn’t respond to their needs (that is, CIO)? What would be the point of saving myself some discomfort now (okay, let’s admit it, a lot of discomfort) by bottle-feeding when I was perfectly capable of breastfeeding, especially at the expense of their health? How could I tell them to stand up for themselves and not let the world take advantage of them if I treated them like “less than” or if I demeaned or humiliated them? And did I really want my kids to think that I was the absolute authority on everything, so much so that they needed to jump to my every command, lest they be punished?

Nope. I wanted my kids to think for themselves; to know that their parents always had their best interests at heart, even when it wasn’t convenient; to be able to count on their parents to be there when they needed us; and to know without a doubt that their thoughts and opinions were just as valid as mine or their dad’s – or any adult’s.

Was it easy? No, not always, especially at the beginning, especially when what I was doing was so different from my mainstream friends’ strategies.

Now, though, I must say that it’s the easiest and most natural thing imaginable. Today my children know that they’re valued and worthwhile and that they’re the equal of every person on the planet, no matter their age. They’re secure, they enjoy spending time with my husband and me, they enjoy each other, and they’re just plain fun to be around.

My kids, attached to each other ... and their guitars.
My kids, attached to each other ... and their guitars.

And what about my friends’ children? Are they easy? Well adjusted? Self-confident? Still connected to their parents? Some certainly seem to be. But, well … not all of them are. I see many (most?) of them turn to their peers for validation. Some put up a good front at being cooperative and “good” while investing a lot of effort in “getting away” with things behind their parents’ backs. And others bow to authority simply because of the authority’s age or position.

That’s not what I want for my kids. I like to think that the “work” I put into being an attachment parent in the early years is paying off now. After the thousands of hours and hours of effort I spent cosleeping, nursing, playing, talking, listening, comforting, mediating, and just being, I’m seeing the rewards.

And those rewards will last a lifetime.

Camille is an attached mom of a teen, a preteen, and a tween and writes about parenting, homeschooling, and chaotic living at TheEclecticMom.blogspot.com.

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