What About Another Worm?

A lazy, sun-dappled Sunday afternoon chez nous, Babygirl power napping in the back, my husband resting on the couch, and Babyman and I were lying on the floor with several tubs of Play-Doh.  He was mashing all of the contents together through the Play-Doh machine, generating one thick tube after another and then imprinting them with leaves and stars and trucks.  I was trying to stifle my Type-A impulse to maintain the integrity of the different colors.  (At this point, most of our Play-Doh is a sort of universal pinkish-gray, the result of all the colors being kneaded together over time.  I cling to the remaining oranges and fluorescent greens — a classic misdirection of energy, but one I cannot seem to help.)

Anyway, I was doing my part, rolling long skinny worms by hand, one after another, and then twisting them into “nests” of varying sizes for Babyman to put “eggs” in.  (We are still working through the Easter basket excitement over here.)  In between worms, I would try to pluck stray bits of Play-Doh from the carpet.  Another futile impulse, sort of like the grains of rice collecting under Babygirl’s high chair, but again, unshakable.  One must try to have standards, mustn’t one?

Eventually,  Babyman began making requests.  “Mommy, can you make a car?”  (Actually, I can make a car out of Play-Doh, as cars are very popular with Babyman, and it’s a skill I am constantly try to perfect.  I can also draw a pretty serviceable car on a napkin or a lunchbox note; my husband does a mean digger truck.)  So we moved on from worms and nests to cars and then smushed up all the cars into large eggs, and round and round it went.  And we were listening to the radio and replacing the song lyrics with silly words — “Mommy, you like this song, don’t you?  It’s ‘Somebody I Used to See at the Playground‘!  Hahahahahaha!!!” — until out of the clear blue sky Babyman looked at me and said, “Mommy, can you make a manatee?”

Setting aside the fact that I would actually have to log on to the world-wide interweb and source pictures of manatees in order to fulfill this request, it honestly just seemed like a bridge too far.  A manatee?  This is lazy Sunday time, not AP Marine Bio!  “No, Babyman,” I said gently.  “I can’t.  What about another worm?”

Babyman moved on quickly from the manatee, but I found it sort of hard to shake.  You see, I felt a twinge of guilt about the manatee.  Was I wrong to deny him the manatee?  Was I not being a good role model?  Should I have tried, at least?  It didn’t have to be perfect, after all, and it could have been a constructive learning moment: “I don’t know, I’ve never made a manatee before, Babyman!  Let’s do it together and see how it turns out!  Have you seen a manatee before?  What did it look like?  Describe it to me.”  And together we could have made this fantastical pinkish-gray sea creature and I could have posted pictures of it on my blog in an act of self-congratulation.

Ugh!  Why do we do this to ourselves? 

Some mothers are very vigilant about their craftsy-ness.  I was talking to a mom at the playground just the other day who was describing her daughter’s class project and how they worked on it together and how before they started, they made a mood board on Pinterest to prepare (and again with the Pinterest, which it turns out would actually make me a better mother!) and then they bought all the supplies and it was so amazing and she’s thinking of starting a small business on Etsy and…

I’m sorry.  I don’t know the end of the story.  I stopped listening as I began contemplating my utter lack of creativity in this regard and the many, many disappointments facing my children in the class project department.

What’s funny is I’d been feeling pretty good about Babyman and art lately.  We recently managed to wedge his orange desk into the kitchen (which is saying something, since we can barely wedge two adults into the kitchen), and we’ve been drawing quite a bit, and working on our letters and our stick figures and — at Babyman’s request — our anacondas.

I love Babyman’s anacondas.  They are long and tangled and cover entire sheets of paper.  They come in all colors.  When he draws them, he talks about the zoo, and all the animals and bugs he likes to see.

Maybe someday we’ll do a project on snakes together, and we can use Play-Doh to roll out really long ones as part of the display, and — because this is a fantasy — we will have kept the Play-Doh green in the process.  And I will have an inevitable twinge of guilt/jealousy/inadequacy when the mom next to us breaks out the butterfly project that moves and flashes lights and plays Vivaldi.  But then I’ll look at our anacondas, and I’ll think about how we sang “Rolling out the Snakes” at the top of our lungs while we made them, and how our funny little project is really a wonderful memory of a Sunday afternoon chez nous.

The future’s so bright, I gotta make snakes.

We all have our strengths.

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