When I was growing up, my dad couldn't cook, didn't clean much and certainly didn't specialize in doing his daughter's hair.
But since my parents were divorced and he only had my sister and me every other weekend, he wanted to focus on doing what he could; he wanted to do something that would make an impact -- he invested in our creativity.
What I remember about those weekends in Athens, Alabama, are our regular visits to the craft aisle at the local Wal-mart to pick out a project that we could work on together. Whether it was a sand art kit or a wooden rocking horse to paint, we were always working together on something hands-on. At Halloween and Christmas, we'd design and build wooden yard decorations. When repainting his house, he let my sister and me help choose the colors and taught us to paint, even letting us "feather paint" one of the bathrooms. As a teenager, he taught me to use tools and when I got to college, taught me how to do basic electrical work.
I'm not sure if he realized it at the time, but those little projects instilled in us not only the passion of making something with our hands, but the confidence and vision that we could do things ourselves.
Every time I paint a room, sew my own curtains or install a ceiling fan, I think of my dad. Every time I see a painting or some sort of decor item I like in a store, I try to determine if I can make it myself instead.
It's a passion I hope to instill in my kids.
Before I had children, I imagined I'd do regular craft projects with my kids, letting them paint or build, spending the quality time that I so well remember with my dad. But it's something I fear I'm failing. Somehow in the last few years since becoming a parent, those kid craft projects never really happened, or if they do, they are very rare. While working two jobs, doing laundry and dishes, while picking up toys, making beds and carting kids off to Girl scouts or soccer, the priority of "craft time" somehow got pushed to the back burner.
But with my dad visiting from California over New Year's, I decided it was time. We took the kids to the craft store and walked out with wooden birdhouses and a sand art kit. The sand art was easy enough.
Painting was another story. I knew I was in trouble when my 20-month-old daughter started crying "Me too! Me too!" as her older siblings got out the brushes and primary-colored paint. I knew I was rusty when I didn't think about removing the white linen table cloth from our dining room table -- the one that had been a wedding gift -- or getting my children to change out of their clothes into something old before breaking out the paint.
I tried to enjoy the time, sitting in the dining room with my three kids and my dad, my toddler in my lap, encouraging my kids in their color choices, trying to steer my toddler's paintbrush away from my face. I tried to soak up the moment, even if I ended up with a paint-stained tablecloth (my fault, after all). I tried to squeak out a smile and not gasp too much when I realized my oldest child was wearing a good white shirt that now had a red streak across the front.
My kids won't remember those details, I hope. Instead, I hope they remember the joy of creativity -- and I hope I remember to do it more often.
-- Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.