I hate to draw. I hate crafts. I hate to work with wood, paper, crayons, paint, glue, anything that involves expressing yourself through that kind of art. It was OK in kindergarten, bearable when I started school, but after a few years, it was my worst subject. By far. When I was 13-14, we were supposed to make a box out of wood. The others made something like this in two months:
I made something like this in six months:
Only it fell apart after a day, I didn’t glue it properly.
After that miserable failure, I got a note from my doctor: “Jostein’s got asthma, he cannot do woodwork.” He was a kind man, that doctor. Of course, it only meant that I had to do stitches and embroidery and sewing and drawing instead. I think I made a pillow once and gave it to someone for Christmas. It disappeared mysteriously after some weeks.
When I left school, I thought I was done for good with that kind of subtle torture. (I even made my mother stop knitting around me, I couldn’t stand the sound.) And then I got kids.
They still do these kinds of things at kindergarten, apparently, and apparently, the kids like them. Drawing, for instance: both of my sons come home with drawings they haven’t even made themselves, they have just coloured them in, and yet they show them to me, beaming with pride. Look, dad, that’s green! I made that monster/super hero/cow/cowboy/house/blob/thingy green! I’m very good, am I not?
That I can handle. OK, I grumble, you are very good, a nice green indeed. Can we talk about something else now? Yes, yes, it’s green, magnificent. And you have cut something with a scissor, and you have glued paper randomly on that green thing, and it’s the Hulk playing football with Hello Kitty, yes, yes, fabulous. Anything else you would like to share? Please?
Usually they do talk about something else eventually, one brother teases the other, someone at kindergarten was mean or nice today, one of the teachers said something strange (“This doll really is alive, he lives at the North Pole, he just came here to visit you”). But then there are occasions when things don’t decrease. Rather, everything escalates.
And that I can’t handle.
Yesterday, my oldest son found a arts and crafts book. The bad thing was that it was in Croatian, so I couldn’t quite read it. The good thing was that it had lots of pictures and step-by-step instructions. The bad thing was that I couldn’t interpret the pictures at all.
I want to do this, my son said. There were some pictures of toilet paper rolls magically transforming themselves into some kind of animals. In between, there were pictures of glue, paper, some small unknown objects of various colours and a pair of hands doing something to the rolls and the glue and paper. I looked at it for ten seconds. Hm, I said, and looked at it for ten more seconds.
My son sighed and turned the page. How about this one, then?
This page was even more unintelligible. There were lots of colours, but I couldn’t figure out where the colours came from, or what they were supposed to portray. If anything. I could feel my stomach tightening, just like at school all those years ago. We don’t have that, I eventually said, and pointed at something on the page, we don’t have cardboard.
I think we do, my son said. Perhaps we could find it?
Ten more seconds, and then he turned the page again. Sighing.
After a few more pages, we ended up trying to make some paper hearts. I folded a piece of paper, he gave me a pair of scissors (he couldn’t cut the paper, it was too thick), and I looked at them. Hm.
I tilted my head and tried to figure out if I had folded the paper correctly. It looked kind of the same as in the book, but you never know. But I had to try. I tilted my head the other way and tried to figure out how to cut the paper. This way? That way? The entire heart? Just half? I cut.
And small fragments of non-connected hearts fell onto the kitchen table.
Oh, my son said. You shouldn’t make snowflakes. And besides, those were poor snowflakes, dad. I think I want to paint instead.
I gave up after that. Or he gave up. We found some ideas for painting in the book, I found the paint and some papers, and he put some colours on the paper and made a mess out of them. A colourful mess, but a mess nonetheless. And after that, he went up to his room to listen to Harry Potter.
It’s not that I don’t like art. I visit galleries, and I can appreciate the beauty of the paintings we have on our wall. (Borrowed from Steen Petterson.) I even find enjoyment in seeing modern art, although I also find some of it glorified and PR-hyped rubbish. And I certainly don’t want to disappointment my sons, I want to do things with them, play with them, have fun and do what they want to do.
It’s just that I really, really dislike to do crafts. I find no pleasure in making pillows or wooden boxes or drawing or glueing or cutting or doing any of those things. Making the house beautiful before Christmas? Couldn’t care less. Decorating the cake? It’s food! Putting pine cones in the book shelf? They’re obscuring the books!
Another thing I am really bad at, is making cards. Sending cards. Thinking about making or sending cards. Invitations are easier on e-mail. I don’t see the point of sending (or showing off) Christmas cards. And so on.
And here am I, trying to make a personalized card. Heh. Can you feel my pain?
But I have a plan. I haven’t talked to my neighbour yet. I’ll drop by him later today with a bottle of wine (I seldom drink, and my wife won’t drink much any time soon), and I’ll stick a card onto that bottle.
I’ll even go so far as to do my best to enjoy the process of creating the card.
Ha, who am I kidding. But I’ll do it, anyway.
Two minutes later: I could only find a small bottle of Czech sekt. I did find a coloured piece of paper, though, and I wrote in my best hand writing: “Dear neighbour. Thanks for looking after your neighbours. Jostein.” Blue pen on blue paper, that’s arty, right? And then I drew pink stars and flowers. I seem to recall that pink flowers are always good.
If I made a faux pas, I hope someone tells me.