Four is a really nice age. My son is just starting to spread his wings and exert his independence. But he doesn't go to school until September, so his sweet innocence has yet to be corrupted by the influence of the Big Kids. One of the things that I'm liking most is watching the development of real friendships - ones not just based on whose mother I happen to be friends with - as well as the evolution of friendships that he's had, well, since birth, basically.
But these frienships inevitably mean birthdays. And birthdays mean presents. And presents usually mean money. Something which I'm a little short of these days. So this month, I had to get a little creative.
Usually, I go to Toys 'R Us, pick a reasonably decent toy (that doesn't make me want to barf due to the movie or television tie-ins, and that doesn't cost the earth) and be done with it. This time, though, it happens to be the son of my very best friend, a boy who my son has hung out with constantly since day one, and the occasion called for something a little more special. There was only one problem: I don't have any money. That is the major downside to working from home (as a mother) and being my own boss (who am I kidding? the kids don't listen to me).
His mom mentioned that he's into animals lately. I also know that he is a kid who likes to collect and and carry around "treasures" -- little things that he has found or has been given that are special to him for some wise kid-reason. So when my son and I were at the ROM and found some little animals carved in stone, we picked a few up. But we couldn't just give him those, so I set about looking for a box or a bag to put them in.
Etsy, Ebay, Craiglist, Kijiji - nobody had the kind of thing that I was looking for. So I decided to make my own. I was going to go all crafty on this gift. Birthday boy, beware.
I started with a wooden box that I found in the craft section of the Dollarama in Parkdale. That place has everything. It's kinda crazy. I'm not good at designing things out of thin air, but I'm a pretty dab hand at copying other people's illustrations. (Useful talent, that, no copyright issues at all. No siree.) But what picture to do? Then, when I was talking with my kids, the line "Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!" came up, and it came to me.
One of my favourite kids shows of all time, and have you seen the illustrations from the original publications? Fabulous. I picked the Cowardly Lion, because he's my favourite, and is suitably boy-ish. It's been ages since I've painted, so my hands were a little shaky, but I think I did okay.
On the outside of the box, I put the best quote from the 1939 movie's song If I Were King of the Forest, "..command each thing, whether fish or fowl with a r-ruff, and a r-ruff and a royal growl." And on the inside, a single word: Courage. I love that the box has a little hidden secret. And everyone needs to find their courage somewhere. Why not in a box? (Sigh, if only courage could be found in a box.)
I put a little felt from a leftover Christmas project on the inside, to protect the little stone beasties. Note to any would-be crafters - DO NOT make fun of people who use glue guns. That stuff hurts like a mo-fo when you get it on your finger. Those crafters are badass. I salute you all. And I hope my friend's kid appreciates the fact that I almost lost a favoured digit for him.