Sabrina holds out her wrist and I smile at her latest Rainbow Loom rubber band creation. “Love the colors!” I say. “And is that a new pattern?”
“Yes,” she says, beaming. “I learned it from the video!”
I feel as happy as she does. Not just because it’s awesome to see your kid blissed out, but because I know exactly how good she feels. When I was her age, I went through a potholder-making stage. For hours on end, I loved to do nothing more than weave colored stretchy loops on a loom. My mom was just as encouraging, although I have no idea what the heck she did with the hundreds (yes, hundreds) of potholders I made—sell them? Use them as mattress padding? Give them away to potholder-less people?
One of the true pleasures of parenthood is seeing your children enjoy the same things you did as a kid. I have adored introducing Sabrina to my favorite childhood books (Nancy Drew! The Boxcar Kids!), craft projects and activities. When she got a pogo stick this summer, I had so much fun showing her how to use it that she finally shouted “MOMMY! IT’S MY TURN!!!”
Sharing this stuff with her takes me back to the pure, unadulterated joys of being a kid. I still remember how excited I’d get when my parents bought me a new bag of potholder loops. When your child’s eyes light up because she has suddenly found an orange—an orange!—in a sea of colored rubber bands, you relish the simple pleasure with her. As an iPad/iPod/iEverything mom, it’s good to remember that happiness is an orange rubber band.
I’ve had a different experience with Max, Sabrina’s older brother. He has cerebral palsy and for the longest time, I mourned that he couldn’t enjoy some basic delights of childhood. Max’s hands are tight from the CP and grasping is tricky. Once when he was a toddler, the pediatrician handed him a lollipop after a visit and Max wasn’t able to grab it. I was so sad that my boy could not hold a lollipop, and I felt awful he was missing out. The truth it took me years to learn: My son with special needs wasn’t bummed about what he couldn’t do—all he knew was to enjoy what he could. I needed to stop projecting my ideas of childhood happiness onto him and embrace his realities. Max got his thrills from other activities, be it playing a game on his iPad or being pushed around in a toy car. Eventually, I discovered adaptive devices that enabled him to pick up paintbrushes and crayons. One of this therapists showed me how to put modeling clay around the stick of a lollipop so he could hold it. When he got a special tricycle made for kids with disabilities, I cried tears of happiness the first time I saw him pedaling down the street.
These days, I sometimes live vicariously through both my kids. I grew up in an apartment in a city, and never got the chance to sell lemonade on the street though I really, really wanted to. The kids set up a 50-cents-a-cup booth this summer and of course I thought it was the cutest thing in the history of Cute Things (even though they insisted on charging me a dollar). This year alone Sabrina has learned karate, taken hip-hop lessons and climbed various rock walls, all stuff I would have been psyched to do as a kid. Come to think of it, I still could do them, if only the darn kids didn’t get in the way. Kid-ding!
Sabrina’s other craft obsession is lanyard. I’ve enjoyed showing her how to do stitches like the cobra, impressing her in the process. It’s gotten me major cool-mom points. Ditto for when I recently took her to see a dance troupe at a local arts center. My own parents were wonderful about regularly bringing me and my sister to performances, and I’ve started doing this for Sabrina (the noise and commotion are too much for Max to handle). I watched her watching the dancers leaping around on stage, mesmerized, and I thought back to sitting next to my mom at Nutcracker performances and feeling like it was all so magical.
One of my favorite lines from Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project book is “The days are long, the years are short.” Childhood is fleeting, even though it may feel like anything but as you juggle all the responsibilities and demands of your life. Introducing my daughter to things I did as a kid grounds the whirlwind of life. The activities and outings bond us. They create memories. Together, we are carrying on traditions and creating a legacy of wonders—ones made of little, rainbow-colored rubber bands.