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Monday
Nov052012

Journeying the Parenting Road: A Creative Endeavor 

by Amber Greene 

photo: gingerlillytea photography

If someone asked me what the most difficult part of raising young children is, I would say it is the definitely the shock of losing free time.  From the moment a first child is born, the joys of sleeping in, impromptu outings, meeting up with friends for a glass of wine, or having a hot bath become rare and sacred events.  But for me, the most difficult adjustment was losing the ability to disappear inside my head; daydreaming and coming up with new creative plans, or simply connecting to the source of all good ideas.  The busy-ness of raising young children meant my mind was always filled with a to-do list of all the tasks I needed to accomplish that day just to keep my house functional.  The repetitive drone of “remember to send that email….I've got to write those thank you cards for the birthday gifts…. Oh, that new load of washing is ready to be hung out…. oh gee, what are we having for dinner tonight?  Did I soak the lentils for the dhal? Or, oh, I must remember to book that hearing test appointment….” drowns out the squeaks and misty vapours of creative thought.  

For me, this detachment from my creative well (in addition to the reduction in time to spend on creative projects) has been the only downside to parenting and I admit to feeling resentful on more than one occasion.  I do miss the time to do my own thing and complete those projects that nourish my soul. So one day, early in my parenting journey, I decided to do something about it and change my mindset.  I resolved to make parenting my creative journey, and find ways to include, on a daily basis, creative outlets that would serve both my inner needs and my child's artistic foundation.  

The key to this mindful transformation has been one sentence that has become my mantra.  Perhaps you might find it useful too: 

How can I bring a drop of creativity to everyday interactions with my children? 

At first, my thinking was narrowly focused on the practical arts and crafts.  I strived to bring some kind of arty experience each day.  It may have been drawing with colored chalk on the driveway, collecting sand from the beach up the road for some sand tray play complete with plastic figurines and dinosaurs, finger painting, or threading felt ball necklaces.  But as time went on, I began to realize ANY moment could be filled with a drop of creative inspiration.  This realization changed my life forever, as I began to widen my view of what it means to be creative.  

In daily life, this new thought process enabled me to look at our daily routine and rhythm with fresh eyes. I saw for the first time how adding a song, a flowery sentence, an experience or a gesture could transform the routine or repetitive passages of time with children into grand opportunities for fun, play, and laughter.  I found there was a meditative aspect to this new thought process too—it was no longer good enough to bring any old thing to the children or myself; I gently began to approach creativity with mindfulness.  

The quality of a creative experience became more important than quantity.  I chose a particular song or game to transition from dinner time to bath time, and repeated this daily for weeks on end.  We began creative projects such as making our own bed-time pillow, a handmade teddy bear from felt balls, or home decoration tasks that would not be done in a day, but over days and weeks.  I found less need for “time-filler” experiences and more opportunity for wholesome, truthful activities such as baking together, growing the garden, illustrating lists and posters, making calendars and birthday cards, sewing gifts, and painting art for our walls.  Planning meals solves that age-old problem of being clueless as to what to feed the kids each night, but also means the family has the opportunity to explore new foods, tastes, ingredients, cultures, ways of living, languages, and history. Every single day begins to feel like an adventure for the spirit. 

 

photo: melissa jean photography

One of the most satisfying creative outlets of all has been the way I talk to and guide my children.  I learned that there is always a win-win opportunity—it is just up to my creative thinking to find it and word it in such a way that everyone has their needs met.  For example, my friend Sandi came up with a novel way to encourage children to brush their teeth.  She filled their toothbrush with paste, and then took Mr. Brush on a journey to see what he could find in her children's mouths.  Of course, Mr. Brush would always see that the chompers had been eating healthy food first—broccoli, watermelon, banana, peas— but more often than not, he also found a treat.  Perhaps he would find a sneaky square of chocolate, or a weekend treat of ice cream.  When Mr. Brush found these, he would rub and scrub that tooth very well, indeed.  When I used this story with my son, Ned, he couldn't wait to brush his teeth (no more cajoling or battling) and see what Mr. Brush would find. Of course, much laughter ensued when Mr. Brush found the remnants of those treats. 

When ensuring Ned walked from the house to the car in one go proved challenging, we enlisted the help of a “stop-go” game—a cross between 'What's the Time, Mr. Wolf/Fox?' and musical statues—where Ned had to freeze every time my humming stopped.  Keeping his attention focused in this way gave me time to grab my things, lock up the house, put on my shoes, and make it to the car before he had time to run off to play with the neighbor's kids.  When a creative idea works, especially when it solves a problem (even if only for a short while), there is no doubt that it is immensely satisfying to the soul.

That one sentence, “How can I bring a drop of creativity to everyday interactions with my children?” literally changed my life, and it has also changed the lives (and family lives) of the many women I have worked with in my creativity courses.  This one sentence is like being given a new pair of glasses when you didn't even know there was a problem with your vision.  Suddenly, everything becomes clear and you can finally see all that was hidden in your peripheral vision.  When someone takes up this challenge and reframes their world through this new line of thought, all kinds of truly magical and wonderful things happen. 

My favorite two things? A newly opened route to your creative wellspring, AND a renewed and deeper connection with your children and loved ones.  Creative striving on a daily basis is truly a path to your own kind of bliss. 

photo: melissa jean photography

Amber Greene is a writer and parenting educator whose motto in life is to 'Fire up your Creative Spark!"  She helps women and children around the globe to unveil their creative powers. Amber provides creative strategies for parenting and supports parents to increase their confidence and find more joy and fun in the busy daily slog. Visit her at www.parentingfuneveryday.com (coming soon!) for a daily dose of creative inspiration, and free art and crafty activities for both mama and child.

Reader Comments (2)

Great post, I found myself nodding while I was reading this. I feel the same way, I used to spend a lot of time daydreaming and now I cannot connect with that part of me anymore because of the overcrowding of the daily tasks necessary to maintain a household. It is a interesting perspective and one I never thought of to see the creativity that I use to get the kids to complete tasks can be the same as the creativity I used to use when daydreaming.
Nov 14, 2012 at 2:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterSarah PD
Ah, this is a refreshing point of view! I did just this with my own little boy, though I think initially it was a less concious decision. However, I discovered quickly that life was so much more rewarding for the whole family, if we did things that kept James engaged, busy, occupied in creative & constructive ways. Songs, games, repetitive rhymes can all be used, in a creative way, to make the daily tasks and necessities so much easier. James feeling restless in the car? Cue The Car Song - "James & Mummy saw a ??? (cow/ cat/ car... whatever) and the ???? (cow) said "???" ("Moo!")... " repeated for various things he would be able to see from the window as we journeyed to the shops, Grandma's, his nursery etc. James doesn't want to get ready to go out? How about a Shoe Race? We used to race to the top of the stairs (but never down - not safe!)... I always "nearly won" - and he always crowed with delight when he beat me! We had tooth-cleaning games, bathtime songs, bedtime lullabies. It was all part of the routine of a small child's daliy life, but songs, games, rhymes and the odd bit of messing about kept the mood light and fun. We rarely had a big problem about any of the daily tasks (except when great hunger or exhaustion interfered). Life was definitely more enjoyable and more creative.
And the rapport & connection that we built around the mundane and routine things, stretched into the time we had together to relax and play. Because I felt connected with James' every day life, I was able to think of things we could do together, that would satisfy both his creative needs and my own. Like you, we painted, printed, modelled, sploshed, splashed and cooked up a storm!
James is now 15 years old. The creativity of his earlier life has been continued throughout his school life and home life. He is still creative himself - he reads, explores, questions; he plays two instruments extremely well, builds and paints model armies ("Warhammer"!), writes - he's writing a series of children's books - illustrates, invents, philosphises... In short, the early creative effort that we made for and with him, has paid off big-time, in his growth toward adulthood.
I am sure that, had we not invested in such creative activities, James would still be a creative person, but probably would not have found the outlets he has. Our encouragement has definitely benefitted him; it has also benefitted myself and his father - the whole family.
Make the effort to engage with your small children and to dip into and explore your own creativity. Small children are naturally very creative and inventive - no-one has yet told them what "the rules" are, so they make it up as they go along - sometimes with amazing results.
It's so rewarding. Make that effort - it is well worth it!
(apologies if this looong reply is a bit rambly... I think you touched on something I feel strongly about! Thanks for this great article!)
Jan 19, 2013 at 3:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterLizzie

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