For our Father’s Day gifts this year, the kids and I decided to paint canvases. This was a two part project. First part, we paint the background. Then we let it dry.
The second part required us to paint another layer on top of a stencil. I provided ideas, guidance, and a stencil that I used my Cricut to design.
Other than that, this was a kids project.
The biggest challenge was finding the time. There are only two evenings in the week that we’re home, and one of those evenings is cut short because we have swimming.
Naturally, this is the second of the two evenings. The first evening we had available the kids painted the background of their canvases.
Easy peezy. No mistakes. No drama. They plop a few colours of paint on the canvas, and spread around with a paint brush.
Notice I didn’t mention an art palette? We applied the paint directly from the tube to the canvas. No mess even!
We used like colours, so blending was done with a paintbrush.
My daughter’s background was a little more complex than my son’s, and so she did require a bowl of water to rinse her brush between colours, but even still, the whole process was simple and stress free.
This first layer was done in less than 30 minutes and cleanup took about five. Clean brushes, find a spot to hide the paintings so that they could dry without their father seeing.
I then design the stencils based on ideas the kids had given me. This wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be either.
I suppose I’m getting better with my Cricut, because the designs (mostly just words) were complete in under 30 minutes as well.
We can’t proceed to transferring the stencil until after the paintings are dry, so at this point, part one is complete.
Second part began two days later after swimming lessons. We had a little more than an hour to get this done before my husband came home.
I hadn’t anticipated the time it would take to transfer the stencil.
This is the part when I bring up my mental health, because I’m telling you, I damn near lost it.
Never the Same Two Things
My daughter’s stencil was the easier of the two, and I was able to apply that to her canvas in about twenty minutes.
She began to paint while I worked on my son’s stencil.
Painful. Stressful. Loud. Chaos. Nerves shot. Almost quit. Almost.
I’m going to have my husband add pictures of the end results.
You’ll notice that my daughter’s painting, the guitar, her second step (the words and strings in white) was pretty easy. The bulk of her work was done in step one.
My son’s entire design was done in step two. To transfer a stencil, for those that don’t know, I’ll break this down a bit.
First, the stencil is created on vinyl, the stickiest of stickers. You cannot simply lift the vinyl from the backing and then place it on the canvas.
No, no, no.
You need to get a heavy duty transfer tape, place that on the vinyl, get the vinyl to stick to the tape (super hard) by scraping and boning, and yelling and sighing.
This is a very slow process, especially when the design is detailed.
Once the vinyl is stuck to the tape, and all backing is removed from the vinyl, you can then use the tape to transfer the design to the canvas. Then you have to undo all that you just spent hours doing.
Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating with the ‘hours’ here, but that’s what it felt like.
The idea is that you want to stick the vinyl to the canvas, and then peel the tape away from the vinyl. It requires patience.
A lot of patience.
The Patience of Painting with Anxiety
Now, generally when it comes to arts and crafts, I’m pretty good here.
But when you’re on a time limit and your boy is just standing there watching and waiting and getting frustrated with your slowness, patience wears exceedingly thin.
I snapped. Mentally. I had to ask my son to walk away, because I could feel his frustrations.
He just wanted to paint and finish the gift for dad. I was holding him back.
I told him to go read a book or play video games, and I’d call him when I was ready.
Well that just left my daughter and I at the table, and she demanded my attention. I had to stop what I was trying to do for my son, and focus on her.
I wasn’t happy about this. She didn’t need my help, she just wanted me to watch what she did and I didn’t have time!
So I shooed her along too. “You’re done now. It will look amazing when dried. Go play with your brother.”
I think she was disappointed that her craft was easy. She wanted to spend more hours painting, and we simply couldn’t.
With both kids out of the room, I was able to focus on the task at hand. Finally. I was just about to call for my son, when my phone rang.
My husband asked me where I was, as I was supposed to pick him up five minutes earlier. Oops.
Enter stress again. I had only just released it moments before, and here it was all over again.
“But we’re not finished. You can’t come home. I can’t come get you. Please just walk to the grocery store and start shopping. We’ll pick you up there. Yes, I’m stalling you. Take your time. Don’t call me again.”
That was pretty much the gist of that conversation. Fortunately, my husband understood.
Perhaps he could feel my stress over the phone, so he chuckled a ‘yes dear’ and followed my instructions.
The rest of the evening went smoothly. My son painted. I placed the canvases in their hiding drying spots, and off we went.
Two days earlier, this had started so well. Step one was fun. Step two was a nightmare.
How had it gone so wrong?
Anxiety Needs Time, Not Deadlines
Looking back on this, I realize this is the thing that made me snap. If we had more time before Father’s Day, this may not have been so bad.
If we weren’t worried about surprising my husband, and let him see us as we painted, this may not have been so bad.
Step two was rushed because we were on limited time. We needed to finish this up “without Daddy seeing” and we only had so much time.
The kids were super excited, but excitement can also lead to stress.
It really is just another form of anxiety.
My daughter didn’t suffer any anxiety here. She was able to do her painting on more than enough time.
My son and I suffered bouts of anxiety because his canvas took so much longer.
I had to constantly assure him that all would be fine. While doing that, I had to also assure myself.
I kept telling him that the hard part was transferring the stencil, but once that was done, painting would be easy.
The hard part was on me. He didn’t even need to watch.
When I called him up to paint, I didn’t bother telling him that his father was waiting. What was the point of rushing him further?
I let him paint. I showed him how to paint a stencil, because this was his first time and he didn’t really get it. We did it together.
The act of doing this final piece together provided us both comfort. It calmed our nerves. We began to feel that happy excitement again.
Finally, and not too much time later, my son said, “Dad’s going to love this.”
That right there… that smile… that moment of pride…
That made it all worth it.
Sometimes, during those stressful moments it’s hard to see the end. It’s hard to see what we’re doing it all for. And yes, it can be frustrating.
But if we take a deep breath, pause, and picture the end result… well, we can get through it.
In all the chaos, we need to remember to breathe. Because moments later, we’ll have something to be proud of.