Wednesday, February 16, 2011

All Hands on Deck

I read Anna Maria Horner's blog a few days ago at .  Although I read several posts--she's incredibly funny and I found myself recalling many of the same stories from when my own boys were about the same age--I especially enjoyed the one in which she describes the Amigurumi toys her daughter made.   The post is mostly about how parents inspire creativity in their children by giving them handmade, which she notes tends to inspire them to make.

Will and daughter Dusti in the tree house he built for the children.
I definitely relate to her post.  I'm creative in an artistic way, and my husband is creative in a practical way.  Talk about a marriage of the minds.....I make things pretty, he makes things work!  All that creativity in one family is bound to rub off on some of the children.  In our case, it rubbed off on all three.  Since we have only boys, I've had to settle for lots of working things, or things needing work, or things that won't work.  The boys were pretty destructive.  They never had a toy that didn't require some doctoring at some point--stuffed animals were sewn and patched up, plastics were glued (Gorilla glue) and taped together (we called the combination bondo since most were toy vehicles) and metal and wooden toys were fixed in a variety of ways.  Now, the boys themselves did much of the fixing.   That meant glue, tape, string, wire, and any manner of "fixing things" were never in their appointed place.  

Will, our oldest, seemed most interested in taking apart anything with wheels and then fixing the vehicles with wheels from other vehicles.  Our toy cars and trucks were the strangest looking things: two huge wheels on the back and two small ones on front, or vice versa, or perhaps four wheels of the same size but about 10 times the size of the original or half the size of the original, and so on.  Since I didn't care to fix the fixed up cars, we simply watched were we were walking.
Adam, Jenny and daughter, Marley

Adam had a thing for string.  He would patch up anything by tying half a million knots into a piece of kite string the length of his arm.  Those tiny knots came out without cutting if I used a straight pin to steadily pick at the knot until something gave.  Most often, my patience gave first.  Cutting was never an option because he needed the whole string to fix the next broken thing.  G. I. Joe once scaled the bathroom mirror for a good three weeks, sometimes steadily going up but occasionally headed to the bottom.  Apparently kite string is exactly the size rope that Joe needed for mountain climbing.  

Rory and wife, Meggan
The youngest, Rory, liked to rig up stuff, to invent stuff.  He would come up with a crazy idea for making something or making it better.  Then he'd build it using whatever materials he could manage to gather--old nails, pieces of wood, pipe, bricks, everything was up for grabs--and he managed to use these things in the most unorthodox ways.  Bricks might served as legs, but so would pipe or pieces of wood.  It was easy to trip on a work in progress since he liked working on the floor, generally near a doorway.  Imagine walking through the hallway in the middle of the night, stubbing your toe on a project and a brick tumbles onto the foot not in pain.  

I didn't have the foresight to take photographs of their projects or fixed up ideas.  I wish I had.  They spent one summer building a fort out of sticks, rocks, green plastic army men, and dinosaurs.  Actually, most of their toys eventually made it to the fort.  We had a fairly cool area of our yard that was shaded enough the boys could play for hours without feeling the Louisiana heat.  The fort covered every inch of dirt (grass could not grow) shaded at any point during the day.  They enlisted cousins and other family members to join in the fun and the fort grew a little each day.  By summer's end, the fort was more like a city littered with people, vehicles, dinosaurs, and various other toys.  

I agree with Anna Maria that creative parents do inspire and encourage creativity in their children.  I have to admit, however, that my encouragement was more a result of needing time for my own creative spirit.  I allowed crazy projects to develop simply because it meant the boys were busy entertaining themselves and who cared if the yard was destroyed and messy? Or if the house acquired bricks, sticks, lumber and other junk the way I acquired fabric pieces?  Isn't that what creative people do-build a stash?  The boys were quite good at building their stash of other people's castoffs.  They could visit any grandparent, uncle, or cousin and return home with a piece of junk that was wanted no where else.  

Electrical wire tied on to the  foot of the bed?  It makes a rail, mom, so I don't fall out the bed.  More string tied on this door handle?  It was holding the tent corner, but it's too tight to get down.  Why is there a broken board in the middle of the floor?  Oh, I need that to make a chair at the fort tomorrow.  I don't want to lose it.  Could someone please get these dirty bricks out the bathroom.  Sure, I'll put them in the swimming pool so they will get clean and we can make a book shelf with them.

What argument do I have or want to use?  I was grateful for the peace of having them busily working on a project.  I needed the time for my own creative side.  They learned, they played, they grew into engineers all--one in diesel engineering (he is now a manager at a company that builds huge offshore equipment), another is a civil engineer who, along with his dad, can fix or replace any part of a building, and the third is a mechanical engineer who enjoys woodworking, building furniture, and repairing old homes.  I'll leave you to figure out which is which.  Thanks for visiting.  I would love it if you shared your experiences in inspiring your creative children.  And I'm sure others would love to read about it as well.

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