Embracing Excess

Guest Post by Kate Holmes Thompson

Left to my own devices, my style of crafting and making is exhausting. I say this with a twinkle in my eyes. First there’s the comprehensive combing of the internet for an example of the project I have in my head. Then there’s the daily (hourly?) contemplation of when will I have enough time to work on the project. Because there are so many other virtuous things I should be doing (dishes, taxes, exercise, making another connection to build my business) besides engaging in pure creative delight. And then, finally, when I’ve committed to going forward, there’s the careful stewardship of my materials. Some might call it thrifty. Others, miserly. This is who I am. I’m 40 years old and I’ve done some work to be aware of when I’m making things harder on myself then they need to be. I know when I’m letting the my own nutty rules run the show and when I need to tell them to take a hike. So it’s cool.

What’s not cool is when my rules and shoulds gets all up in my 3 year old’s business of making and crafting. Can you hear the joy just getting sucked out of it? And for all my awareness of when I’m controlling and optimizing things, I have triple the awareness and a deep commitment in my heart that I don’t want to show my kiddo this is the only way to do things. So my 40-year old self has to check all her shoulds and rules at the door, and get down on his 3 year old level. And it’s not just getting down to be with him, it’s getting connected to the kid I was when I was his age.

Embracing Excess

I have to remember how fun it was to squirt glue in never-ending loops and curlicues, until the paper is almost soggy. The satisfying sound of dumping dry rice and corn out of containers and squishing fingers through cold paint. Cutting paper because it feels powerful. Living by the adage that more is most certainly better when it comes to googly eyes, pompoms, and beading jewels. I have to remember what it means for a child to make and craft on his own terms.  

So what happens by dropping all the rules and shoulds? And what have I learned for myself?

  • At my house we make and craft more frequently and in shorter pockets of time than I would have ever imagined. I’ve learned that sometimes 10 or 15 minutes is all it takes to build something or create a collage or measure and mix up some ingredients for muffins. And that’s helped me realize that I don’t have to set aside an hour for my own projects. With intention and purpose I can sew a small project or make a few notecards in a 20 or 30 minute window.
  • I’m super present. When I’m not trying to micromanage, I can just be with him and explore with him what happens when you dunk your painting sponge into every single color available … at once. He’s leading me in what he wants to do – I’m kinda of not in charge. So I get to quiet down my brain and get recharged.

  • I’m getting in-touch with my inner MacGyver (did that date me?) and realizing how creative I am, without the internet’s help. I once made an accordion from a brown paper bag, picture frame box, and piece of ribbon. In about ten minutes. And it wasn’t perfect but my kid didn’t care – his brain and expansive imagination filled in the gaps. It was an ACCORDION. (So sorry – no pics, but it did happen!)

One of my favorite days, when I really was able to let everything go in the rules and shoulds, was a few weeks ago with my son and his friend. I had a small stash of some dried grains that had outlived their prime and I imagined the boys could draw with glue on paper and then sprinkle the grains over it to see what designs stood in relief. I offered that suggestion to them and then sat back. For ten minutes they glued and sprinkled and colored intensely on pieces of construction paper, silent and immersed in their work. And I just watched as the glue puddles got bigger and bigger and the piles of rice got taller and taller on the paper. I wasn’t sure the construction paper could support the moisture and weight of the emerging sculpture. And then in a final flourish, the friend squirted even more glue on top of a rice pile on his project, laid one last piece of paper on the glue, gave it an anchoring little pat, and looked up with a supremely satisfied smile on his face. His artwork was covered up, obscured by the final piece of paper, but it was clear that the joy wasn’t in the finished product. It was in the freedom of making a mess, of going overboard, and not having someone tell him to do it any differently (as much as she wanted to ;) ).

What Shoulds Say vs. What Making with Joy Says

Kate is a personal coach who supports people to quickly and powerfully start living the life they want. She lives in Seattle with her husband and two kiddos. Prior to becoming a mom, she spent her free time hiking in the Cascades, distance running, and cooking for friends and family. Things look a little different now but she and her husband are getting back into the swing of outdoor life, albeit with sunrise hikes and stroller runs. And Kate is pretty proud of her newfound skills as a short-order cook for the under-4 crowd.