I’ve taken up a new hobby with my youngest daughter. The last thing I need is another mug or trinket, and pottery-making may be slow placed and a bit more Martha Stewart than I’d normally go for, but it gives us several hours of peaceful concentrated time together and lends itself to great conversation to boot.
For our family, craft making has always been bomb-dropping time. For some reason – I think because I’m looking at them but not looking AT them – they choose craft time (or while I’m driving) to tell me about good news, bad news and the occasional jaw-dropping news. It’s great too, because you can sit for an extended amount of time saying nothing at all because your hands are busy and there is no awkwardness with the silence. So I’m all for crafts, and the current one is pottery at the Creative Cafe in town.
Last time we were in, Lainey and I had just settled into our seats when she started talking about kids on the bus being mean. Seems two girls and a boy in grade four who sit behind her and her buddy have been teasing and tormenting them during the ride. What probably started as trivial remarks that may have been dismissed or ignored by a meek or more timid type of kid has resulted in them poking the bear. My daughter can be shy and reserved, but she can be fierce and competitive as well, and she doesn’t take kindly to taunts. We had a long discussion about their actions, her reactions, and what to do next (I also put my son on watchdog patrol for the next week so I have a better handle of what’s happening on that bus). It was another reminder of how much unfolds from within my kids when they have a craft in hand. A magical sort of key it seems.
Anyway – we were about an hour in when a woman came into the cafe with a young boy – maybe four years old. They were quite the good-looking mum and son – she was about my age (though I often forget I am 43, she was more like 35). She was rockin’ the skinny jeans and black heeled boots. She had long shiny hair, perfectly manicured nails, lipsticked lips, and had an amazing purse that I’m sure cost a couple c-notes. I hated her on the spot. Her son was cute as a button – like a little prince Harry. Auburn hair covered by a little newsboy cap, little button nose, lips like his mother (minus the honeysuckle lipstick). The apple didn’t fall far from the tree – they looked like a GAP ad. After she got the rundown on how the place worked, she told her son that they were going to paint something for Daddy’s birthday.
“Pick something – what do you think Daddy would like?”
The walls are lined with shelves of unpainted pottery of varying prices. I give Lainey a $20 limit. She can choose one piece for $20 or choose a number of pieces that add up to $20. On this day, she only had $18 to use because the last time she had talked me into a $22 piece that she loved, so I agreed on the condition that the next time she’d have $2 less to play with. I had a moment of sheepishness when the mother set no rule on his selection – lucky kid – but then I brushed it off. After all – she looked like money probably wasn’t something she worried about much.
The little guy was bouncing – or skipping actually – he was so happy. “I pick for Daddy?”
“Yes,” she said. “Pick something nice, and then you can paint it for Daddy.”
He looked up and down the shelves and let out a little squeal when he came upon a football. “That one!”
“Are you sure?” His Mom said, clearly not amused by the thought of a $7 ceramic football uglifying her mantle.
“Yup. I’m sure. Football.”
Hot Mama convinces him to look a bit more just in case, and he goes on to choose a spiderman bank, then a dragon figurine, and then the piece that had sent him over the edge – the $45 pirate ship. With each choice, hot mama questions his selection. Are you sure? Do you think he’d like that one? Don’t you want to look some more? Are you really sure that’s what you want? It was a tireless effort on her part to get him to choose the coffee mug that said DAD in bold letters. With every new choice he made, she’d give him the drill (albeit in a lovely, concerned tone) that maybe Daddy would like something else, that maybe there was something a little better, that maybe they should look some more, and that the mug she had in her hand sure was nice…but what did he want to give Daddy?
And I got to the point where I just wanted to scream at her – “Hey you skinny bitch – he WANTS to give Daddy the friggin’ football!”
But of course, I’m far more polite than that – at least externally – and so I said nothing. Lainey and I exchanged glances a few times, and after 10 minutes or so of it, she whispers to me, “Why doesn’t she just pick if she doesn’t really want him to do it?” And I told her the truth – she wants him to pick, but to pick the one she wants him to. To which Lainey rolled her eyes and made the crazy sign on the side of her head. And although externally far less polite than me, she made a good point. It’s an interesting thing that parents do: give their children choices without ever intending to let them choose.
At the end of the day – the manicured mom choose the DAD mug (which frankly wasn’t any less tacky than the football – we were in a pottery shop after all) and held the paintbrush in the boy’s hand as he painted. It came out looking like the something you’d buy at Pier One (if Pier One sold tacky DAD mugs). Hot mama looked pleased as punch and the boy looked like he’d just finished watching a Mr. Rogers’ Neighbourhood marathon. Don’t get me wrong – I love me some Mr. Rogers, and spent many a day mesmerized by his ultra-kind ways. He was a form of medication for hyperactive kids everywhere – but let’s be honest – he knew how to bring a kid down to ground level. That’s just about where the wee Harry -lookalike was sitting. He’d been zombified.
It was sad to see a boy skip in joyful, but slink out defeated in a place where magical moments about simply nothing often happen between me and my daughter. Hot Mama looked so flawless and perfect I immediately envied her, but she’d missed the best part about bringing your kids to a creative space. Somehow I can’t help thinking that Dad would have been better off with a glazed football painted in messy hand.
But then who I am to judge? I’m just an easter creme egg addicted woman in yoga pants and an old pair of Converse, trying to help my daughter maneuver through grade school.