Crazy Kids

While we’ve been here in Virginia, one of the women asked me a very good question that made me ponder. She asked me what I did as a mother that made my children turn out to be so creative. First I had to think about my children in terms of that word, creative. (I had previously thought they were just crazy, but creative describes them much better.)Yes, they are a creative bunch. Bekah designs and sews clothes, paints, and no big project intimidates her (like designing and laying a mosaic kitchen floor); Nate writes wonderful stories and designs and builds things (like the third story on his house); Rachel is a decorator, floral designer, caterer, poet, and project manager. Where did all this craziness come from?
The obvious first answer is that it is all a glorious gift from God. He has given my children talents which they are eagerly using, and the best of parents can’t put in what God left out. But God uses means to nurture these gift-laden children, and I suppose that is where I came in as their mother. Though I may not have always been aware of it at the time, I can see how God used some very simple things to encourage my children along the way. Here is a quick overview.
When Bekah was in high school, she began designing clothes. I had taught her how to sew when she was little, but by high school she wanted to sew without the benefit of a pattern. I remember wondering if I was wasting money buying all that fabric, because she seldom actually wore any of her creations. But I made a deliberate decision to keep buying the fabric because I saw it as an investment in her, not in her wardrobe. She spent hours working away on some pretty spectacular dresses that seldom got completely finished. But she was learning to use her gifts.
Doug read outloud to the kids for hours and hours on end. I have no idea how many times he took them through the Narnia Chronicles. I know he read the Lord of the Rings through twice to them. And then there were the Penrod books and P.G. Wodehouse and many others. I remember Nate listening intently and during some of the battle scenes in Tolkien’s books, his cheeks would get positively hot with story grip. And then when he was in eighth or ninth grade, Doug and Nate started building our house. Over the course of the next four years, they pounded a lot of nails together, and learned how to do something neither of them had ever done before.
Rachel remembers when she was five or so, that she had made a little arrangement in her bedroom, something to show off her new cassette player. She had laid a puffy quilt on the floor under the window and had arranged the cassette player with a few other items in some tasteful fashion. Then she hustled off to get me to come admire her creation. And of course I did. She says that I said something like, “Rachel, you always make things look pretty.” Well she’s been hard at it ever since. While writing this, I decided to call her to ask what else she remembered along this line. She remembered a bunch of stuff that I had entirely forgotten. (We had a very good laugh over some of the crazy things the kids did.) The result is that she has promised to write about the creative juices flowing around our house in her childhood. And when she does, I’ll post it here.
Bekah is now starting her own design business, since her children have now reached the age that she can afford a little time on such things. Nate is immersed in writing, but he is the master mind behind Trinity Fest and is still building his house, and Rachel is about to go into hibernation for a while until her twins safely arrive. Though I expect that she’ll still be able to dabble in a few things, her children will be the chief recipients of her creativity for the next few years. That is a long answer to a short question. But I suppose the quick answer was that I gave them resources and encouragement. Then I got out of the way and cheered them on. And that is what I’m still doing.

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19 thoughts on “Crazy Kids

  1. For this summer I’ve been doing an internship out in New Jersey working with a web design and development/programming company (between school years!) It’s been great fun because it’s made me realize what a blessing it is to have parents like mine (who, from your description of the way you and Doug have parented your children, are similar in this regard). I would have never gotten into my creative side, website programming, if it hadn’t been for my dad spending LOTS of money on books that I used to learn the stuff I know now, and encouraging me to use my skills in practical ways, such as making websites for the youth group at our church – and I know that my mom certainly cast a disapproving eye on those expenditures, lol. But parents really bless their children when they do this kind of stuff, even if it does end up to be a waste sometimes (and there are more than a few of those books that I never read and ended up eBaying :-p.)

  2. Parents model God’s Fatherhood to their children. You modelled His kindness with those resources and that encouragement, so your kids got the picture that God is generous even to the point of “wastefulness” — He makes cups run over, after all. When a person lives with faith that God is kind and gracious, he can take the risks that creativity requires. If he thinks that God is a harsh master, he will bury his talent for fear of getting it wrong if he tries to use it.

  3. Creativity applies to all areas of life, my daughter(4)is very creative with all forms of mud and dirt! LOL! I don’t think I will be encouraging this form of creativity! But, I can give her a lump of clay and teach her how to make a pot. Sometimes we have to direct their creative juices! πŸ™‚
    ps..Enjoyed VA

  4. Great comment, Valerie. Every so often, I catch myself wondering about God’s fatherly kindness. I have no idea why, since I can see (when I stop and look) how immensely, unreservedly kind He has been to me throughout the years. I guess I need to stop and look more often instead of getting bogged down in the distractions and details! I sure hope our kids have a better grasp of His kindness than I did/do.

    Come to think of it, my understanding of his kindness has really gotten a boost since I began drinking in reformed theology with the “idea” (dumb word choice) of the covenant. This has made so much more sense of my bible for me than any of the other learning I did up until that point. Still plenty to learn though!

    Thanks for your blog, Mrs Wilson.

    In Him

    Meredith in Australia
    (the one who was stressing out over the pegs lost all over the back yard, if you remember )

  5. Thank you Valerie, very good insight indeed. I grew up that way and therefore have not been good in this area with my children. It is getting better though, the Lord is having much grace. As Pastor Wilson says, “The Lord takes you right where you are, not where you should have been.”

  6. Luma, I bet your kids know that it’s getting better, too. My vast parenting experience completely uninformed intuition says, “Kids take you right where you are, not where you used to be when you were getting it all wrong.” AND they get to see the example of your repentance and growth, which will bless their little socks off! πŸ˜‰

  7. Meredith in Australia,
    I DO remember you, and I love it that you call them pegs. We call them clothespins over here.

  8. Have you any helpful ideas for a momma who’s struggling to stay ahead of one extremely resourceful, fast, creative, and inspired five year old? I know I need to give her things to do, and I know I need to hit the ground running in the morning in order to do that, but honestly, it’s hard to hit the ground running fast enough. (She is, I’m sure, far more gifted than I am.) The problem is that at this age, so many of the things she would like to do mean constant supervision, and with the other kiddos, I don’t have time for constant anything.

    Thanks for your blog–I love it, and am so glad you’re finally writing one!


  9. Hi Claire,and I know you are not exaggerating about your bright little five-year-old! Here are a few things I remember doing to keep the kids busy.. I tried to schedule one-on-one time with the oldest, usually while the others were sleeping. This usually involved reading or projects. And often it was my projects that I included them in, whether it was baking bread or folding clothes. Some of the things I did could be called a division of labor. For example, we hired a tutor one summer to help with reading lessons, enrolled them in swimming lessons, had a co-op pre-school with a friend (twice a week, once at each of our homes),a lovely older woman in our church started a sewing club for little girls, and a friend sponsored a once-a-week reading club for the neighborhood kids. But we also went to the library frequently, made mountains of play-dough, I stocked up on the dress-ups with (used) ballet costumes and pom poms, we had little friends over to play, went to the park….I’m sure you are doing many of these same things. My five-year-olds also went to kindergarten, which may not be what you are planning to do, but we had a thoroughly wonderful time with kindergarten. Many activities and friends, and of course in Logos School we had fabulous teachers (the first kindergarten teacher being my sister-in-law Meredith). We also took the kids on jammy rides and there was a lot of outside playing in the yard in the summer. Some families give each of the children a “late night” each week. On their late night they get to stay up after the others go to bed and pick a game or activity to do with Mom and/or Dad. I know you have your hands full. Hope this gives you a few ideas.

  10. Thanks for the suggestions! Yes…I know extra social time can help diffuse some of that energy. We’re blessed to be so close to parks and friends. The late night idea is a good one too.

  11. Nancy,
    Can you lead me to an article on this issue? Or post any ideas?
    I need advice in how to keep things centered
    around your family and not what the neighbors are doing. I have a very
    social 7yr old ds who lives, sleeps, eats, breaths neighborhood friends. We
    are a little concerned because he has such a “follower” personality. I
    have noticed attitude issues, new vocab words, and it seems that the neighbor kids are highly sexualized for being so young!
    I have tried my best to keep things under my watchful eye, they never
    go in others homes without me, and only play with doors open, or in our
    yard. They do ride bikes up and down our dead end street, but other
    than that they are still under my wings.
    How do you be protective without smothering?
    How do you protect your little boys but still allow them to “divide and conquer?”

  12. Karla,
    If your son is really that devoted to the neighbors and they are having more of an influence on him than he is on them, then it is time for you to redirect him. I suggest that you do not just forbid him to spend time with them, but give him real teaching about it and then help him cultivate the right kinds of friends. When my son was five we moved to a new neighborhood. One of the neighbor boys who was older would come over to play in our back yard, but he had some pretty colorful language. So we talked about how to handle it with our son. The next time he took the Lord’s name in vain, our son said something like this: “Curtis, you can’t talk that way in our yard. You can’t say (and then here he filled in whatever words were the problem). If you do, you have to go home. But you’re still our friend.” The result was that Curtis still came over, but if he fired off with any of the prohibited words, he would saunter off home again. Eventually, he quit coming around. Our policy was that our kids could hang out with the neighbor kids as long as all the influence was going in the right direction. It seems to me that this is teaching the kids to stand up for what is right and isn’t being protective in the wrong way. But it is being protective in a good sense. And we kept our yard as the gathering place, rather than the whole neighborhood. We had a similar situation in a previous neighborhood where we had to tell a little girl to watch her mouth. If she fouled, she voluntarily would leave, just like ol’ Curtis.
    Hope that helps.

  13. Thanks Nancy…teaching him to stand his ground will be very helpful. Things have changed so much from when I was playing in the backyard!

  14. Claire, “hit the ground running in the morning” Oh, I can SO relate to that–especially during the winter months when the weather isn’t so conducive to investigating the great outdoors! I’m sure Nancy won’t mind me adding a bit to her fabulous ideas. πŸ™‚ We have recently adopted a schedule (not one that makes you a slave to the clock, but one that gives you order to your day) and it has been a big help. Our 4 year old knows that first thing in the morning he has to feed the cats–which is great for teaching dominion, authority, stewardship, coordination! –and gives me a few minutes to get my bearings. Other things that have been very helpful around here are age appropriate toys that don’t require constant supervision (I have other kiddos, too!) How to get them interested in the morning? After they are asleep at night, set up a train track, lego building, whatever it is they are to play with after the morning duties, and when they wake up to it, they’ll be eager to play with it themselves (at least that trick works for me!) The only catch: you have to not care when your mom tells everyone the toys are really for you and not your kids! And to be honest, after a long day, I do sort of enjoy building my own train tracks and buildings. πŸ™‚

  15. This post inspired me a while back and I’ve been hard at work making our little home more beautiful. (Homemaker, married to an ex-NSA student for 2 years, one baby so far.) We don’t have much money, but with effort on my part and help from Walmart, our home is suddenly cozy and pretty instead of messy and shabby. I’ve never forgotten reading in one of your books how you kept your house clean: working really, really hard. Those words often occur to me. I still have a lot of improvement needed in my daily habits, but I’m growing.

  16. I really appreciated this post when I first read it, but last night (four years later) I had such a lightbulb moment related to it. Thank you for helping me figure out my most mysterious child. πŸ™‚ The fabric and yarn are *not* being wasted and the insatiable desire to create off-pattern…well, I finally got what that can look like as a grown woman – a designer! Duh.

  17. Somehow I missed this gem back in ’07. Thanks to Valerie for reposting it on FB. I realize that I did have more of a part in my children’s creativity and skills then I thought I did. How encouraging! I rarely had the energy to teach them to sew or knit or tat or draw or… I was just trying to keep up with the laundry and keep everyone fed and cheerful! But, I read to them tons, and I always made fabric and crafts available to them. Go for it kids! Just don’t cut anyone’s hair off or burn the house down. God also provided others in our life to teach them many skills. My mom taught them to knit, Mrs. Kohl and “Mrs.Mrs.Kohl” taught a lot of sewing skills to my oldest two girls when they were little. In fact, in a round about way, I taught one of my daughters to tat. I helped a friend learn, who helped her cousin learn, who taught my daughter several years later. Hey! kudos to me :0) God is so faithful, and He promises to provide all of our needs according to His riches in glory. Teaching our children life skills and useful talents are needs, but He provides them in ways that we may never expect or even realize sometimes.

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