It feels like my nine year old daughter has a new must-have list every few days. These wished for items have ranged from L.O.L. Surprise Dolls in little packages that shoot confetti to squishy versions of foods to spinning finger toys that no one seems to play with anymore.
This week, though, all she wants are three things – art glue, baking soda, and contact lens solution.
Weird, right? It reads like a pledge class scavenger hunt. Luckily, I have contact solution for her to use. Actually, I should say that I had contact solution for her to use. Within minutes, she had already squeezed most of it out into pieces of Tupperware around our house.
It’s the activator. Kelly uses shaving cream. I use contact lens solution.
It’s an activator in slime-making. For those who don’t know, slime making is the latest craze at my daughter’s school and, apparently, schools across the nation. Slime-making is when you spend $30 on supplies to make a handful of sticky goo that you could buy for 50 cents in the vending machines as you leave the supermarket.
Yet, here we are. Our table is full of glue and powder. Our daughter’s hands have glitter stuck all over them. It’s basically slimeageddon.
To be honest, though, there’s also something pure about the whole idea. While I reel in horror at the thought of how it could wreak slimy havoc on our kitchen table, I also see it for what it is. Slime making has steered my daughter to her creative side and allowed me to remember that same side of myself that may have fallen to the wayside.
I can say that with certainty because, out of the blue, Olivia decided that she wanted to make her own stress balls. Unlike creating sticky contact lens blobs, the stress balls were completely her idea and involved filling balloons with rice. It felt that her newly creative streak had begun to steer her away from playing with toys and more to creating them.
Do you know what’s embarrassing, though? As she was making it, I thought to myself, ‘What a waste of time. You can buy those things on Amazon in bulk for next to nothing.” I didn’t even consciously think this thought. It just happened in my head. It was as if I was listening to another voice say it and I never felt as old as I did in that moment.
I used to do all of those things. I’d spend hours creating outfits for wrestling figures from electrical tape or making my own Colorforms. I lived for that stuff. Sure, real accessories or store-bought Colorforms were great, but when you make your own, it becomes an achievement. It’s an achievement that I’ve all too often been outsourcing these past few decades to Amazon and Target.
It sounds so cliché to say “my nine year old daughter taught me about what’s important in life.” Every time I say it, I imagine rolling my eyes at someone else saying it. I don’t mean it to be a sugary platitude. I mean it seriously. It was as if she started humming the theme song to a TV show I forgot from when I was five. Without even knowing it, she reminded me of a part of me that I sometimes forget.
In many ways, I still do creative things, but with an adulty spin on it. I like to make pizza dough from scratch and do work around the house. I still know that feeling of accomplishment, but know it in practical terms. Like most adults, my hobbies have slowly begun to center around accomplishing tasks around the house. Whether it’s feeding people or fixing a broken bi-fold pantry door, my creative sparks tend to check off other items from my to-do list.
Not Olivia, though. Making slime benefits no one. Heck, it doesn’t even benefit her. Inevitably, she has glowing pride for a few hours…followed by disgusted hand washing…and eventual complaining about how it “doesn’t feel the same” the next day. Yet, she’ll do it over and over again with the same process following each time.
It could be mind boggling and I still hadn’t fully wrapped my head around her pointless project when she started complaining about her recipe. She was calling for more ingredients like Old King Cole calling for fiddlers. Her hands, covered in shaving cream and glue, were giving me panic as she screamed for more baking soda. I reached my breaking point and decided to find a less mess recipe of my own.
Olivia, there’s baking soda everywhere. I found a recipe that has three ingredients. That’s it. Here, let me have the bowl.
I began stirring and adding in the contact lens solution. As it got harder to stir, I could see her looking into the bowl. At this point, though, I was emotionally invested and nestled it like my baby. It was getting better and better with each turn.
When it was done, I acted like I had just built the great pyramids. I felt like I had.
Look at that. That’s slime.
I placed it in front of Olivia and she picked it up with all the scrutiny of a pawn shop dealer. Eyeing it closely, she gave a begrudging thumbs up.
Eh. That’s good slime. I like the one with shaving cream better. But it’s OK.
That wasn’t good enough.
No way. That’s the best slime you’ve ever seen. Write that recipe down. Daddy’s the slime king!
Sure, I could once again wrap this creative spark up in the chore of “I’m spending time with my kid”, but let’s be honest. Olivia may have brought me to the slimy table, but once I sat there, it was all me.
And that’s when I got it. I understood the slime-making. It wasn’t about making a toy that you will barely play with or even touch again. It’s about showcasing your talents, experimenting with ingredients, and taking pride in what you do. It’s about the journey, not the destination.
That’s a lesson I used to know. Now, thanks to my amazing slime-making skills, I know it again. That’s worth the price of the ingredients alone.