I just learned an important parenting lesson from my youngest son (two and a half). It came about quite sneakily and over a period of time. Which made for a much bigger “duh!” effect than had it struck thunderbolt-style, as parenting insights usually do. (Don’t they? What is your experience?)

Creating with kids at Doha’s Café Ceramique

My oldest son’s teacher had invited all kids with their parents (aka: moms) and younger/older siblings to Doha’s Café Ceramique. It’s a cafe in The Mall (what a creative name ;-) just off Doha’s D-Ring which offers porcelain raw material – plates, mugs, figurines, vases, seasonal items – to unleash your creativity. You pay for the item you choose and they deliver to your table the materials you need to turn this into a personal work of art (porcelain-colors, brush, sponge, etc.). After you leave, they glaze your item and fire it.

Cue a horde of 13 kids in grade 1, all between just 6 and nearly 8 years old who were already in a state of high jinks thanks to the upcoming spring break. The Café Ceramique staff had prepared a large table for the class and a mug for each child.
We moms were supposed to meet&greet over coffee and food, watch our lovely offspring — and perhaps keep the siblings entertained by ordering for them their own item to be painted.
We were the first to arrive because I’m still paranoid about driving in Doha, Doha-traffic and not finding my way. %-) *blush*
The first mom arrived and sat at the table I was sharing with my snacking son – who had to miss his nap that afternoon and not exactly charm personified. I was glad about the company — I was so nervous about finally meeting the other moms from the new school and also hoping I’d find someone my son and I could both connect with. The treacherous waters of mommy-dating …
All other moms who arrived later knew each other, sat down at other tables. They ordered items for their kids, chatted. I am terminally shy so I didn’t dare get up and approach them. :-/
There wasn’t really time to calmly drink coffee and connect — to many overexcited kids, too many tired toddlers around too many highly breakable objects …

Toddler unleashed on crafts-project …

I literally wrote a book on how our own emotional state, as a mom, positively or negatively impacts our behavior as a mom. How it influences our subjective impression of our surroundings – which of course  include our tantrum-throwing 2-year old children … So, damn, I should have noticed that my youngest was trying to tell me something, but I was so nervous about the other moms, I didn’t get it.

We had come with the intention to paint something for Easter. Since Easter was less than a week away, everything in that style was sold out. The closest I could find was a vase with Angry Bird motif.
My son kept insisting he wanted to paint it black.
I used to be a Goth in my teens, I don’t have any problem with my kids painting their stuff black.
But that day, something in me was broken. I too badly wanted to be considered a “good mom”, to fit in. And I had said aloud we’d create something cheerful for Easter.
The mom at my table refused to order the color black for her child (also a 2,5-year old), telling her daughter she’d ruin the mug she was supposed to paint if she indulged in “too much black again”.
I was nervous, self-conscious, my son was whiny and yelling through all of the café … I put some food in him, explained loudly in an embarrassed voice that he missed his nap …
I showed him all the other available colors and he said he “loved them”. Together, we picked yellow (for an Easter bird), orange for the beak, white and black for the eyes. And ordered some other pastel colors my son suggested.
Mom happy, son happy.

Until the bird arrived and my son grabbed for the small pot of black, intending to cover the bird in it. “But you SAID you also like these colors! Please pick one of those …”
The next hour is quite a blur how we struggled to paint the bird in something fit for Easter. My son kept  insisting he DID love the other colors, but they were NOT for the bird. He didn’t even try to explain, he was just throwing one tantrum after the other. Or painting his hands or the table in the pastel colors …
I finally had to leave him alone for a few seconds to give my older son a proud-mom moment for the mug he had created on his own. When I came back, my son had used his chance to paint as much black as he could over the bird. Gasp!

When we left, my son was in tears and I was exhausted from all the struggle. To put the icing on the cake, I was told that Café Ceramique needs about 2 weeks turn-around time before you can pick up your finished item. So we wouldn’t have the bird ready for Easther — and the angry critter could have had any color %-)
Later that evening, my son got a high fever. He had been sick at the Café already, I just hadn’t known yet. I felt like the world’s worst mom ever that I had been so short-tempered with him while he was sick.

It gets worse … ;-)
Two days ago, we finally picked up the finished vase. While we rode up in the elevator to Café Ceramique, my son piped up in his stroller in a happy voice “Getting the benbouin!”.
He was looking forward to getting the PENGUIN?!
“Honey, you think that bird is a penguin?”
Emphatic nod. “Benbouin, yes!! Benbouin!”
“Is that why you wanted to paint it black?”
“Yeeeeeees!”
cue mom’s facepalm
Of course he had wanted to paint the bird black!
But all through that afternoon and in the five weeks since then, he never ONCE mentioned the word penguin.
No wonder he was devastated that I kept insisting the penguin should be yellow!
He had done a brave last-ditch effort to save the poor penguin. And, in my son’s eyes, that thick black streak running over the bird is the most beautiful thing. He loves the vase and while at IKEA that same day, he even bought an artificial flower to put in it. :-)

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They did a really great job at the Café of lovingly glazing the vase — it’s super smooth inside and outside. The kids can’t stop touching it and marveling over it.
The colors changed a lot on the vase and on my son’s mug — they got much, much lighter in the firing process.
We’ll have to keep that in mind for the next project.

Below: My older son’s mug. Before firing, it was red inside. But the bright orange also looks very good.

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Creating with kids

My oldest son had so much fun at Café Ceramique that he asks me every second day if he can return. I was reluctant before the recent penguin-discovery. Now I promised them both that we’d go there soon. And this time, I will let my youngest paint his item in whatever color, way or form he wants. I usually don’t interfere in their art projects and only give advice or assistance when they ask me to. I shouldn’t have let my self-consciousness get the better of me.

Unlike my toddler-experience, the moms with kids from 5 upwards had no trouble at all. All around us, moms and children were happily creating and the atmosphere was very encouraging for everyone to try their hands at a project.

Address:
Café Ceramique
The Mall, 2nd floor (take the escalator or the elevator, go through the furniture shop)
just off D-Ring
Doha, Qatar
Website: http://cafe-ceramique.com/new/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cafeceramique.qatar