“Mummy, talk to me!” – Lessons learned while tending the kids’ craft booth at National Library

If you’re a friend on my facebook, you would have seen some posts on a kids’ craft activity I was running at the National Library for the launch of ArtSeen.
These were the craft items we did at the Fun with Craft play area:
Colourful button decorative book binder cum bookmark
2 types of folklore character bookmarks
It was my first time handling a craft activity for an event of such scale. I was overjoyed when I got the offer- it felt like winning jackpot! I was so excited about it, I was counting down to the event. Thankfully, preparation work started a couple of months before the event itself, and my busy work and home schedule made the waiting much more bearable.  I had most things done myself, right from the design of the craft to the drawing of templates, down to purchasing of materials and pre-cutting some of the templates.
Felt circles – hand drawn and cut-out manually. I exactly bought a circle-cutter for the job, but it wasn’t able to cut through the felts. Now I’ll have to think of some ways to utilize my new circle cutter. 
Hand picked, mixed and matched items for every craft kit.
I got the whole family involved – the girls helped to pack the materials into craft kits while my hubby was roped in to pick up print-outs from vendors and help with the cutting and packing of materials.

Shanice helping me to sort out the colour paper for photocopying.
The girls working together.

All was set and I was even much earlier than the recommended setup time. The day started on a good note, with Chubby behaving well (most of the time) at the kids’ craft area while I got down to decorating and setting up the booth. I pulled through the helper briefing session with him asleep on my chest while I demonstrated the crafts to the helpers and distributed the work.

Chubby trying to help with the bunting. 
Chubby ‘cleaning’ tables with wet wipes. Thanks to his efforts, the area smelled like nursing room for a while. Lolx.
Bunting up
Overview of the play area

All was good and hubby was there with Renee on time, before the crowd came in. He’d picked Renee up from her ballet class before he came over. He took over Chubby and left Renee with me while he walked over to pick up Shanice from her ballet class which ended later. The plan was for hubby to pick up Renee after that and bring the kids for lunch. In between hubby stepping out of the library to his return, a couple hiccups occurred which made the 20 mins or so seemed like a long long period.

The activity corner was ready at 12.20pm, and the crowd was much more than what I’d expect. People were flowing in and out, kids were filling up the tables and the helpers are all getting on with their work. I was tending to a table of eager kids when I saw from the corner of my eye my little girl looking lost on another table. I quickly excused myself and brought her over.That was when the nightmare began. Renee was whining and crying for attention while I tried to facilitate the activity. Given the circumstance, I had little choice but to ignored her. Feeling unheard, she started to stamp her feet under the table which rocked it abruptly, then attempted to put her feet on my lap. I. ALMOST .DIED. Meanwhile, the other kids were getting impatient while eager parents snap away with their phone cameras. At that very instance, I must have wished for the ground to open up and swallow me in.

Somehow, I pulled through the session and left the kids to work on their own while I took Renee to a corner and tried my best to not scream at her in public. She kept saying, why won’t I help her, why won’t I talk to her. She seemed hurt and started wailing. I. ALMOST DIED. AGAIN. So, I told her, I needed to work and will help her later. Thankfully, the hubby was back quick enough to bring the kids for lunch.

I felt like a total failure, for the next 4.5 hours while I was working at the craft corner. How could I ignore my own baby and left her wailing in public? What kinda mother was I? Why was my child behaving like an spoilt brat? Why was she doing this to me? Didn’t she know this was important to me?
Then it suddenly stuck me that Renee has never been in any of my classes before this. We’d craft at home pretty often, but every time, she got the attention she needed from me because there were just the 2 (sometimes 3, Chubby included) of them. She must have felt like she was less important than the others. The moment I figured this out, I was less upset with her, but even more upset with myself.
Looking back, I should have prepared her for this. I’ve taken for granted that she would be okay. I’ve often assumed that whatever worked with Shanice would work similarly for Renee. Afterall they are sisters, right? Same mum, same dad, growing up in the same house, have the same ‘annoying’ younger brother, right? WRONG! This little episode at the library is but another reminder to me – THEY ARE NOT THE SAME!
Having some experience rising our eldest girl (just 2 years older), I’d take for granted that it would be easier with my second child. Which school to go to? Whichever jiejie went. Enrichment or no enrichment? Whatever jiejie did. Surely this won’t go too wrong right?  Wrong, again. The girls are very similar yet very different at the same time, so naturally what worked for Shanice may not work for Renee. *Palm in face* Why didn’t I realise this earlier?

Image credit: www.technologyrocksseriously.com

Perhaps I’ve been too busy doing what I think was best for Renee. Too busy trying to be fair, to ensure that she has the same privileges and exposure Shanice had. Too busy worrying that she might not be developing up to par with her elder sister. And in the process, forgotten to stop and listen to her, to try to understand her. Looking back, it’s a little wonder why Renee seemed much more difficult to manage than Shanice. We’ve been feeding what worked with jiejie on her, thinking that it would work out similarly. Ptff! Silly me!

Happy Renee with her completed paper-cut bookmark which we made together  later that day at home.
Poor girl, eyes were still swollen from crying earlier that day. 
So, that was my biggest gain from the biggest event of the day. The business woman in my scowled (a little) but the mama gained (a big deal). Getting an offer from a big client for the first time is a very big thing for a small startup like mine. As a newbie, I was looking forward to learning and gaining precious experience from it, but what I’d never expect was a lesson on motherhood – a painful but nonetheless precious one.

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