The sweetest words in the English language--next to "the IRS has decided not to prosecute"--is "I made this for you" falling from the lips of a small child.
Of course getting from the beginning of the arts and crafts journey to this heartwarming place can feel like a scene from "Return of the King"--strewn with horrific obstacles and a bit of a bloody mess.
Nevertheless, some parents insist on venturing forth into the realm of making arts & crafts projects with their child. It is for those brave souls that I offer this list of preparations, so that they might be equipped for what lies ahead:
1) Place protective vulcanized rubber sheets on you, your child, the table, floors, walls, and ceiling. It is a natural law that the one item you neglect to cover--for example, the couch that is fifteen feet away--is the precise target to which the paint will jettison when the child inevitably sits on the tube.
2) A Lithuanian interpreter to decode foreign language project instructions.
3) 50-gallon drums of glue and glitter. There´s not a child living in the United States who doesn´t feel their artwork is incomplete without truckloads of both.
4) Extra buttons, sequins, and feathers to replace the ones that the child/dog/cat ingests.
5) The ability to improvise a substitute for the one infinitesimal, albeit crucial, missing piece of the kit.
6) Band-Aids, slings, and crutches for those unavoidable injuries that result whenever you mix kids with creativity.
7) Tweezers for digging small parts out of ears and noses where they will become wedged.
8) Adhesive remover to extract glue from eyebrows, and from between stuck lips and glued fingers.
9) Industrial strength cleaner for removing stains because you didn´t follow rule #1.
10) Insurance to cover replacement costs because you didn´t follow rule #1 and rule #9 isn´t working.
11) An alternative plan because despite the picture on the box and the bold lettering that claims, "Hours of fun for the whole family," the entire project will only take 7-1/2 minutes to complete.
12) A good explanation as to why your child´s project looks nothing like the completed project pictured on the box.
13) A predetermined location for displaying the art. Though you may be proud of junior´s creation, you most likely don´t want a portrait of a three-headed green Martian with anatomically correct body parts as the focal point of your Country French living room. Propose an alternative, such as the laundry room or the linen closet. Better yet, suggest that grandma would love to have it hanging in her living room.
14) Kissinger-like diplomacy for when two siblings show you their work simultaneously and ask, "Which do you like best?" which every parent knows actually means, "Who do you love more?"
15) Tissues to wipe away the tears when the child, with whom you have lost all patience during the course of the project, turns to you and says, "I made this for you, Mommy."