Last weekend my five-year-old daughter had homework for her kindergarten class: to decorate a turkey outlined in black on a white sheet of paper. We could have gotten out the markers, crayons or watercolors. But instead we got out the hot glue gun, four different vials of colored sparkles, sequins, feathers, pom poms and a pearl necklace. If Liberace ever dressed as a turkey, this turkey would have been his twin.
I never had Martha Stewart-like aspirations before becoming a mom. I would have been just fine getting married in my parents' backyard with egg salad sandwiches on rye and a big slab of chocolate cake. I have no scrapbooks from my youth, nor are the couple of boxes with mementos from my childhood lined with acid-free paper. Something happened when I got pregnant, though. From photographing the positive pee stick for posterity to photographing and documenting each one of my babies’ poos—I’ve gone crafty mad. Emphasis on mad.
I suppose I should be happy that my daughters would rather create at their art table than glue themselves to the TV. Except sometimes I’d rather they just enter the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, as there’s no mess to clean up afterwards. You name an art supply, we have it. You name a holiday, we have a DIY craft for it. I enjoy doing stuff with them—especially at the preschool level because my kids always think what I make deserves to be hanging on the walls of the Met—but it’s exhausting. Coming up with project after project, each more intricate than the next. There is glitter glue embedded in my fingernails and wood floors. There is Play-Doh forever dried on my soul.
With the rise of mom and craft bloggers comes ever-more ways to sit down on a Sunday afternoon and do a project with your child. Which means there are more and more ways to create messes and there is fewer wall space to hang each disastrous masterpiece. Whatever happened to good old-fashioned hand turkey drawings? Why does everything have to be worthy of a Pinterest post or an Etsy store? I’m not Gwyneth Paltrow. My family’s Thanksgiving table will not have homemade, organic, vegan, conflict-free pomegranate and kale place cards that my kids made at the local nature center. Our standards aren’t that high, but they’re starting to feel that way.
When I was a kid we had a woodworking bench in our playroom complete with real nails, a saw and screws. My sister and I made countless versions of plain old boxes with what we had. None were pretty. None ever ended up as centerpieces. We cut ourselves and each other. We were happy. Last year at the holidays I made each of my kids their own snow globes, complete with their photos inside. I was not happy.
The bar is much higher these days. It’s good for the scrap books, but it’s not so good for my sanity. Trying to keep up with the DIY crowd is expensive and tiring. When I’ve tried giving my girls plain coloring books, they think that’s what they’re supposed to use as newspaper under their acrylic paint projects.
Everyone just needs to take a step back from Martha Stewart. Let’s hear it for less paper-mâché turkeys and more turkey potpie frozen TV dinners. Creating is one thing. Competitive creating is just a wee bit cuckoo. The inventive insanity has to stop, or I'll run out of money at the liquor store before I even make it to Michaels.
Reprinted with permission from Elizabeth Street. Want more?