posted in: Motherhood 66 comments

I wrote this last year for submission to a website that has since stopped accepting submissions. I then submitted to another site I was writing for, which has since been temporarily put on hold until further notice. I guess the only way it’d see the light of day, is to publish it here. What I wrote about in this post happened a while ago, but it still holds true.

When I was 10, I sliced my thumb open while carving a potato in art class. Instead of working on potato print art, I had to get my hand stitched up.

27 years on, I still can’t handle a glue gun, paint brush or a crochet needle. It’s best not to trust that I can actually cut in a straight line (I can’t). I can sew a button on – badly. I cannot fathom how people create magnificent pieces of art using just paper, glue, and string.

That hasn’t stopped me from trying to craft with my son (if nothing, I’m persistent). I had great hopes that by crafting together, I could teach my son some life skills and lessons: learning to be good with your hands, figuring things out, patience, the satisfaction of a job well done, creativity.

As much as we think we’re teaching our children, the truth is – they are our greatest teachers.

Children teach us quote

Edible peanut butter play dough – check. Cookie tray – check. Cookie cutters- check. Toothpicks – check. The plan? Make play dough stars and triangles using the cookie cutters. However, my preschooler had other ideas.He grabbed the toothpicks and started poking holes in the play dough, creating an intricate dotted design that I couldn’t have imagined. It was beautiful. I loved that he did something unexpected and different, without my prompting.

Too often, we feel accomplished only if we stick to the plan. We follow recipes to the letter. We aim to recreate the elaborate Lego building on the box cover. We color the sky blue, the grass green, the sunflower yellow, because that’s how it’s supposed to be. We look at Pinterest and feel that we too, need to be that Mom who makes birthday favors from scratch, or gets creative with milk and soap when the children get bored.

By allowing ourselves the grace to stray from the plan on occasion, we gives ourselves, and our children, the opportunity to stumble upon beauty that would be otherwise missed. We may not have baked the perfect cookie, but we had fun measuring and mixing. We didn’t recreate that Lego building exactly, but we built and stacked, laughed and learned. We may not have mastered paper mache, sewing, making sock puppets or painting murals, but we had fun giving it our best shot.

We, the craft-challenged, may not be the perfect Pinterest-worthy parent, but we don’t need to be.

What lessons have your children taught you?


Alison Lee is a former PR and marketing professional turned work-at-home mother. After a 10-year career in various PR agencies, and of the world’s biggest sports brands, Alison traded in product launches and world travel, for sippy cups, diapers, and breastfeeding. Alison's writing has been featured on Mamalode, On Parenting at The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Everyday Family, Scary Mommy, and She is one of 35 essayists in the anthology, My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends. In 2012, she founded Little Love Media, a social media consultancy specializing in blog book tours, and because she doesn’t sleep, is an editor at BonBon Break, an online magazine. Alison lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with her husband and four children (two boys and boy/ girl twins).

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  • June 16, 2014 Allie

    Amen. I’m horrible at crafts and I seriously don’t even try – so I give you credit there! I’ve never been (and never will be) a Pinterest-worthy party planner but me and my boys have a ton of fun. No glue or scissor required πŸ™‚
    Allie recently wrote…VITA AdVentures Abroad: The SleepoverMy Profile

    • June 23, 2014 Alison

      Just get ’em out the door, right? I find that leaving my boys to it usually results in more fun for them anyway πŸ™‚

  • June 16, 2014 Tricia

    Oh they teach me so many things! And yes, it often becomes clearest to me when I had a perfect vision of how a craft or recipe or something would go and they toss it all out the window in that perfect, childlike way.
    Tricia recently wrote…Lovely little things, 20My Profile

    • June 23, 2014 Alison

      And that’s always the best way!

  • June 16, 2014 Jennie Goutet

    You are so patient! I really don’t like crafts.

    My daughter is currently teaching me that I need to be more available to her, and not so often on the computer. She needs to see my face and have my attention.
    Jennie Goutet recently wrote…A Fountain of TearsMy Profile

    • June 23, 2014 Alison

      I don’t either. Our crafting sessions has been, er, limited. πŸ™‚
      It seems to be that when kids get to a certain age, the tween years, there’s a push and pull between wanting to be independent, yet needing mom more. Right?

  • June 16, 2014 Janine Huldie

    Being a craft challenged parent myself, I love this and will tell you my husband is the artist in the family, so many times I will leave the more intricate stuff to him (I mean he even sews, too), but like you I do try and I think I give myself A for effort if nothing else, but still I admit my craft projects may not be the most Pinterest worthy of them all, but I am still very much present and there to do all sorts of stuff with my girls, too πŸ™‚
    Janine Huldie recently wrote…Pley – Lego Fan’s Dream Come TrueMy Profile

    • June 23, 2014 Alison

      Your husband SEWS????? πŸ™‚
      I think being present is far more important than being crafty anyway.

  • June 16, 2014 Ginny Marie

    So true! I always think that when I just let my kids use their own ideas, their projects end up so much better than if I try to take the lead. I’m glad you published this post here!
    Ginny Marie recently wrote…Your Spin Cycle Prompt {week of 6/16}My Profile

    • June 23, 2014 Alison

      Thank you, Ginny! I was almost despairing that this post would never go anywhere. πŸ™‚

  • June 16, 2014 Lisa

    I am terrible at crafts. Recently, my oldest daughter has started inventing recipes. I am hesitant to let her try them because I fear they will not turn out well. Some have actually been o.k. though. It is teaching me to try new things – sometimes they will fail and that’s o.k Sometimes they will succeed and be something to enjoy!
    Lisa recently wrote…What’s in Your Fridge??? {Tuesday Ten Linkup}My Profile

    • June 23, 2014 Alison

      I think it’s awesome that she’s inventing recipes!

  • June 16, 2014 Katie

    I can do Ok with crafting on my own…I just don’t have any time. I sort of hate crafting with my kids. Ok, I hate it a lot. I just don’t have the patience and I can’t stand the mess. Plus they bring home a kazillion crafts from Sunday School, Daycare, and school, so home is craft-free. Other than coloring πŸ™‚
    Katie recently wrote…Project 365 {week 24}My Profile

    • June 23, 2014 Alison

      Oh gosh, don’t get me started on the stuff they bring home! I have a drawer-ful of them. πŸ™‚

  • June 16, 2014 Jen

    So lovely Allison, we don’t have to be the perfect Pinterest parent. I’m not, but it’s ok. Thanks for sharing this lovely post.
    Jen recently wrote…Jen Takes Over Man-day!My Profile

    • June 23, 2014 Alison

      Thank you, Jen!

  • June 17, 2014 Greta

    I love this. It’s so true! My kids rarely eat what we spend the most time making, but whip up a simple, comfortable meal and they want second and thirds! It’s not about the time it takes to make something, it’s the love you put into it.

    • June 23, 2014 Alison

      They can taste the love, methinks. πŸ™‚

  • June 17, 2014 Rudri Bhatt Patel


    We are craft challenged as well. I lack the patience for it, but I hope I make up for it in other ways. My daughter and I love to explore nature, play board games and curl up in bed for reading time. We all have to play on our strengths and harness what works for us.
    Rudri Bhatt Patel recently wrote…Six Parenting Lessons From A Father Dying In HospiceMy Profile

    • June 23, 2014 Alison

      I think that’s brilliant!

  • June 17, 2014 Stacey

    I love this! I learned long ago that children have a lot more fun when given the tools and then the freedom to do as they choose. My crafts wouldn’t be Pinterest worthy anyway, but my children have taught me that it doesn’t matter.

    • June 23, 2014 Alison

      They definitely have a lot more fun when given free reign!

  • June 17, 2014 Tamara

    I’m so very craft-challenged. I think my kids have taught me that a little goes a long way with them. And they remember all of my successes much more than my failures, even if I dwell on the bad stuff.
    I love that about kids.
    And I love that this article finally found its publishing.
    Tamara recently wrote…The Stories Go On.My Profile

    • June 23, 2014 Alison

      Kids are so adaptable and forgiving, yes? And thank you.

  • June 17, 2014 Mo at Mocadeaux

    My 7 year old nephew is amazing. He looks at the world in very unusual and creative ways. Recently I was supervising while he was doing his math homework. His approach to the problem was CLEARLY non-traditional and I wasn’t sure the teacher would appreciate his going rogue. But he came to the right answer, could demonstrate his thought process and stuck to his guns, insisting to do it his way. I can’t wait to see where this wild creativity and self confidence takes this kid! Best of all, his parents embrace and encourage his imaginings.
    Mo at Mocadeaux recently wrote…Revealing The New Blog Design And Something ElseMy Profile

    • June 23, 2014 Alison

      He sounds amazing!

  • June 17, 2014 lisacng

    Our children certainly are the best teachers of not going with a plan and going with the flow. My child has taught me to forgive and not hold grudges because although he gets mad at me, he forgives and usually within 30 min. He doesn’t use it against me later in an argument. I am learning to do that, in part so that when he gets older, he continues to forgive the way he did when he was 3.
    lisacng recently wrote…Lessons from dads + Picture PracticeMy Profile

    • June 23, 2014 Alison

      I’m so glad that kids are so forgiving!

  • June 17, 2014 Amy

    Oh the crafts. They will kill me. I do feel guilty sometimes that I am not craftier, because my daughter loves them. But then I remember my childhood, and I can’t remember a single craft project at home and I somehow survived, so I know she’ll be ok.
    Amy recently wrote…What a difference a year makesMy Profile

    • June 23, 2014 Alison

      You know what, I can’t remember doing crafts at home either! We played outside, or board games/ card games indoors, and all of us turned out just fine. πŸ™‚

  • June 17, 2014 Alexa

    I am a lot like you when it comes to crafts, etc. I guess I am child like in nature, because I constantly stray from the plan. Plan? What’s that? It makes my life a little more chaotic… but flexible! πŸ™‚
    Alexa recently wrote…I Need Some Help Here!My Profile

    • June 23, 2014 Alison

      Nothing wrong with being child-like!

  • Roughly the same thing.To keep an open mind and to find humor in the unexpected bumps on the road.
    Besides I’m thinking the time is ripe for the anti-pinterest movement…
    Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes recently wrote…The Fifa World Cup wins…My Profile

    • June 23, 2014 Alison

      I love Pinterest, but for different reasons! So an anti-craft-Pinterest-movement, sure!

  • June 17, 2014 My Inner Chick

    Just had an epiphany!
    you are LOVED so dearly because you’re like “all of us.”
    …only better)))!!! xxx
    My Inner Chick recently wrote…How I Almost Effed Up Seeing CherMy Profile

    • June 23, 2014 Alison

      Aw, hardly better than anyone, just your Average Jane. πŸ™‚ xo

  • June 18, 2014 Jennifer Hall

    Well, Alison, your first mistake is that it’s a crochet HOOK. πŸ˜‰
    Jennifer Hall recently wrote…Halfway through 2014: My One Word Check-UpMy Profile

    • June 23, 2014 Alison

      Whoops! There you go! πŸ™‚

  • June 18, 2014 Rorybore

    “stumble upon beauty” – love that.
    and since I also am not known to be super crafty, that’s exactly how it would have to be discovered. πŸ™‚
    I still have glitter from the craft I did on Sunday. that stuff is like.. forever.
    Rorybore recently wrote…Tuesday Coffee Chat: Do You Think You’re Sexy?My Profile

    • June 23, 2014 Alison

      Oh dear god, glitter is NOT allowed in my house!

  • June 18, 2014 Kerstin

    I’m completely craft-challenged and while I like watching people do crafts, I don’t enjoy doing it myself. I do love colouring outside the lines, though and have always encouraged my children to do so πŸ˜€
    Kerstin recently wrote…Experience2014 – May Round-UpMy Profile

    • June 23, 2014 Alison

      You’re a great mom, Kerstin!

  • June 18, 2014 Brian Sorrell

    I used to build furniture, but I’m not about to let my 4 year old near a table saw. And I can’t craft to safe my life. But I encourage him to ride his bicycle anywhere and everywhere, and nowadays, that includes the ramps and quarter pipes at the skate park. I reckon he’ll be the one stitched up and missing potato carving one day. But damn can that kid balance on the top tube of a miniature BMX bike!
    Brian Sorrell recently wrote…RedemptionMy Profile

    • June 23, 2014 Alison

      That is amazing and awesome!

  • June 18, 2014 Kim

    I am so not crafty. I can’t really sew – but the button that I reattached to the pants I am wearing does seem to be holding up nicely. For now, at least.
    I have come to the same conclusions about crafting and perfection. So often we get more from trying things our own way than by doing the same things as everyone else.
    Kim recently wrote…“The Wolverine” – Short Hair QuestionsMy Profile

    • June 23, 2014 Alison

      Yeah, I can’t really sew either. Sewing a button on and having it stay for longer than 3 washes in the machine is considered good for me!

  • June 18, 2014 Jennifer

    Mine have taught me more than I can count, but the biggest is probably how to show love and affection. I’ve never been good at those, but they are, and they demand it in return. It has made me appreciate how important those things are. Not just the doing, but the showing.
    Jennifer recently wrote…How well do you know my blog?My Profile

    • June 23, 2014 Alison

      Yes! My children have done the same for me.

  • June 18, 2014 MomWithaDot

    Craft Challenged? Me too!! The pine cone flower craft I ‘tried’ putting together is still waiting on my yard deck from three weeks ago – how do these crafty Mom’s do it I say?!!
    MomWithaDot recently wrote…ComplexMy Profile

    • June 23, 2014 Alison

      I think you either have it in you, or you don’t. πŸ™‚

  • June 19, 2014 Kimberly

    I’m good at scrapbooking and card making but other than that? I buy the shit. Ain’t nobody got time.
    My son loathes anything crafty so I supposed that doesn’t matter. But I do think that creating the memories is far more important on how the final piece looks…unless you slice your hand…hee hee
    Kimberly recently wrote…The Grey AreaMy Profile

    • June 23, 2014 Alison

      I am all for creating memories! (not so much hand slicing, heh)

  • June 19, 2014 Christy

    I love that line about allowing ourselves the grace to stray from plans! Being in the moment makes for a more enjoyable experience for everyone, despite how difficult that is sometimes. I’m certainly craft-challenged myself, but how much fun is it to watch children create something? Love your words!
    Christy recently wrote…How to Eat Well in Coastal MaineMy Profile

    • June 23, 2014 Alison

      Seeing kids get creative all on their own IS the fun part!

  • June 20, 2014 Natalie

    Wow this is so true…we are perfectionists but sometimes perfect is when we don’t follow path we set out to. Love this!
    Natalie recently wrote…This Week-Friday 5!My Profile

    • June 23, 2014 Alison

      Thanks Natalie!

  • June 20, 2014 Bev

    Beautifully written! As I have learned from working with children, it’s not about the result, it’s about the process. Even though she’s still so little, Eve has taught me about patience, letting go of plans, and living in the moment, and as she gets older I’m sure she will teach me so much more!
    Bev recently wrote…Tiffany of Fizzy Party shares some tips for hosting a summer soireeMy Profile

    • June 23, 2014 Alison

      The process – yes, absolutely! Ah the first year of a child’s life – that is many life lessons for us moms πŸ™‚

  • June 21, 2014 Nikky44

    Yesterday I learned a very valuable lesson from my 13 years old. She “broke up” with her friend, because she’s not comfortable in the presence of this person. They both cried. I told her: why did you do that??? don’t you see how silly it is, this person did nothing wrong? Her answer was: it’s a great person and I wish her the best, but not in my circle. I need to choose carefully the people i want to be around. I remembered how often I forced myself to be with people I didn’t like? I always ended up unhappy and alone.

    • June 23, 2014 Alison

      Your daughter is a very wise, young woman.

  • June 26, 2014 Rebecca

    I love this post. I can relate but I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum. Before there was pinterest, there was my mom- the craft master. She’s super creative on her own, doesn’t need (or what) help or instruction from anyone (unless you’re the exception: Martha Stewart). This means that growing up, she would set-up crafts for us kids to enjoy only for it to be super controlled. My mom’s vision would take over and she would do it all herself to ensure her vision became reality. And I mean, I don’t have any qualms or issues with her artistic demands (she is an artist) BUT- that need for perfection caused us to both miss out on the fun we should have been having together. My mom is very sensitive so if she reads this by chance, I still love you woman! Loved this post Alison- and I appreciate you giving your son the freedom to enjoy the journey
    Rebecca recently wrote…Why My Son Will Never Know My MotherMy Profile

    • June 27, 2014 Alison

      My Mom never spent time like this with us ever, so even if it wasn’t the way you would have enjoyed it as a kid (relax Mom! Right?), I think it’s awesome that she did make an effort to do things with you kids. But I do understand as well, the demand for perfectionism kinda spoiling things for you. πŸ™‚

  • June 28, 2014 Julia

    I learn that lesson a lot with Jack that things dont’ always have to be done or played with a specific way.
    Julia recently wrote…Days of Summer – Week 2My Profile

    • June 28, 2014 Alison

      It’s a good lesson, and one I hold dear to. πŸ™‚

  • July 2, 2014 Andrea

    I am craft-challenged because I get bored in the middle. I look at what I’ve created and think, “What’s the point of this?” My daughter can spend a morning AND afternoon working on a creation, and when it’s finished beam with pride at what she’s made. She sees the beauty despite the drippy paint, the uneven cutting, the blobs of glue, and thinks, “I made this.”

    She has taught me perspective.
    Andrea recently wrote…DIY Breakfast CasseroleMy Profile

    • July 2, 2014 Alison

      I think the same thing too!
      Kids definitely teach us perspective.

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