"First you want to color the J and the jellyfish," our beloved children's librarian had instructed. "Then you can glue it to your paper. Then you can add the yarn and ribbons to the jellyfish body as tentacles."
As I wrestled Little Sister back into her chair, held the mouthwash size paper cup of apple juice to her lips, and pulled the yellow marker away from her lips, I looked up to see BG gluing her completely uncolored J to her paper - backwards - and haphazardly attaching ribbons around the edges of the paper.
All around me, mothers and grandmothers meticulously supervised their charges' work. "I think you want to color the jellyfish a little more. What colors do you think you should use? It could use more green." "Now lay the glue down in a nice even line here. Yes, just like that." "Here, let me curl the ribbons for you so it looks nicer."
"Hey sweetie? You wanna take a look at that J for a second? Does it look right to you?"
"What? Oh. Ha. It's backwards." She unceremoniously ripped the letter from the page and started applying glue to the other side.
Sometimes I wonder what the other moms think of me and my children at moments like this. As their perfectly groomed children sit squarely in their seats, making true to life jellyfish, mine throw splotches of marker across sheets of construction paper, calling out for the librarian by name (yes, the baby does too now) to come look at their work. I often feel embarrassed in situations like this, embarrassed by our messiness, by my seeming inattention, by their volume and enthusiasm.
Embarrassed, to some degree, by their joy and their complete indifference to certain social norms.
And so, in some ways, also proud.
If you had asked me two years ago, one year ago, six months ago, if I would wake up this morning and decide that we were going to make and paint salt dough ornaments in my kitchen, I would have said you were crazy. I'm not crafty. I'm not a pinterest mom. I'm a big old pinterest fail.
But a few years ago, even, I knew that I wanted my daughters to be creative, to love art, to have these skills, so I started getting them art supplies. Mostly I would just put the box of materials on the table and say, have at it kid. Do what you will. Because, really? I didn't care.
The purpose was the process.
When I asked a friend if I was crazy to make ornaments today, she said no. She said "they won't come out the way you want them too, but the kids will have fun."
And I realized, as we rolled out lumpy dough, six hands on the rolling pin, that I didn't want them to look like anything. I didn't want them to look like anything but my girls' own work.
And so, they came out perfect.
And this, I think, is what motherhood is teaching me again and again, what I am fighting against and slowly succumbing to. This lesson is my children's greatest gift.
It's already perfect.