Last night’s babysitting triumphs deserve some reporting. During dinner, I told the kids about today’s party for Jason’s upcoming birthday. The coolest part, I said, was that we were going to have snack foods that started with each letter of Jason’s name. We talked about how to spell Jason and then guessed different foods whose names started with those letters. They mostly made up nonsense words that began with the correct sounds, but they were interested and engaged for a sustained amount of time. I tried to give them a hint about the “n” by telling them that pistachios, almonds, and cashews were different kinds…they guessed ice cream. Hopefully they will remember that those are also different kinds of nuts.
After dinner while the boys played rambunctiously, yet cooperatively, in the basement, six-year-old Kelsey and I got creative upstairs. In recent weeks I’d brought some projects to work on while the kids watched movies, and she’d seen me at work braiding and sewing t-shirts for a rug and knitting. Last night, she got excited about doing her own craft so she looked in the supply closet and found just what she needed: paper, markers, pipe cleaners, tape, and popsicle sticks. She decided that she wanted to make a birthday present for Jason (who, by the way, she’s never met and knows of only as my friend).
The two of us gathered around the kitchen table, and she flitted around, doing some drawing, some tearing, some moving of objects as her vision developed. Eventually, she hit on the perfect idea: a pencil holder! She started to coil a pipe cleaner into a spiral and then gave it to me to finish. This, I learned, would be the base. Then, she began taping popsicle sticks together for the sides.
When we needed to take a break, we went to the other room and practiced our gymnastics. Kelsey turned many cartwheels, and we did some stretching together. Eventually, I decided to try a cartwheel, too. Feeling nervous, I asked if Kelsey could encourage me and give me some tips. She told me to imagine that I was just like her, and she cheered when I did it.
Returning to the craft project, we did team work on the popsicle-stick taping. As we worked, Kelsey had some great ideas for giving the gift to Jason. She said that I should have all of the guests write their names on it and then surprise him with it. I thought it was a great idea but I privately wondered if the pencil holder would stay together long enough for people to sign it. Later, she said that I could take it to the party but that I needed to bring it back next week. As we worked, Kelsey became increasingly more invested in the project. She fished for compliments several times, asking if it was a good idea and if she was very creative.
As bedtime approached and the pencil holder was nearly complete, Kelsey began putting the finishing touches on: a green pipe cleaner around the outside to give it some color. Some crumpled red tissue paper inside the pipe cleaner for…decoration? I began trying to re-direct her attention toward pajamas and BFF (brush-floss-flouride), so I told her that she’d done a great job and made a beautiful pencil holder. Knowing that her attachment had grown beyond her original idea of a gift for Jason, I asked if she wanted to keep so that she could enjoy it herself. Without hesitation, she said yes and asked me to be sure to show it to her parents when they got home.