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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A large portion of my day was spent imprisoned by a vortex of fuse beads. If you are not familiar with fuse beads, consider yourself extremely fortunate, and maybe even go buy a lottery ticket because now is your time! The activity that my son Liad began to nag me about at 7:15 this morning was that he would like to make an airplane or a truck out of tiny little tubular beads that are arranged on a small pegboard, and then melted via an iron, so that the beads stick together and retain the shape of the board. The thing is, that was when my other kids needed to eat breakfast and get to the bus, so fuse beads were not a high priority for me. In fact, I’m pretty certain that during no portion of my 30+ years on earth were fuse beads ever up there on my to-do list.

To make matters more complicated, one child missed the bus due to too much whining and crying, and the fuse beads got further delayed as I raced around to prepare to drive to the elementary school. But I knew that I owed it to my toddler to do some fuse beads before the day was to begin, simply to maintain my integrity. And so I paused in my efforts to gather the remaining two lunches and backpacks, to stop and place a few tiny beads on even tinier pegs.

“Time for school!” I chirpily announced, hoping the seven beads I had placed along the border would appease Liad enough to get into the car of his own free will. It didn’t. And then he spiraled. Not only would he not wear a jacket or shoes, but I had to promise that I would spend my free time that day making him a dump truck out of hundreds of beads. Even so, I had to carry him to the car kicking and screaming. Tantrum #2, all before 8 a.m., and I didn’t even have free time to look forward to, because it would be filled with an annoying art project.

You might be wondering why I bought these beads in the first place. There is a single, solitary merit to this crafting project, and that is that it’s time consuming. This is not good when the adults are required to intervene or participate, but when a willing child comes over and says, “Mom, I’d like to sit quietly for the next 45 minutes hunched over in a trance, to arrange a rainbow of beads on a little square,” you run back to the store and buy more containers of that magical stuff.

You will probably then run right back with your receipt in hand when you realize how that child will likely knock into his project at some point during its creation—maybe even while bringing it over to the iron, sending hundreds of tiny beads flying in all directions, several on the floor for your dog or your baby to ingest. (Another pro: they are too small to be a choking hazard and can be safely swallowed! Score!) Then, that child will cry loudly, and will force you to get down on your hands and knees to sweep up the spilled beads and put each piece back on its proper peg, in exactly the same pattern as your child had. You will feel very bad for yourself, and will wonder who the evil person was that actually invented this concept (Gunnar Knutsson, thanks Google), and might even sit down to compose some hate mail to him, assuming he is still alive or even has eyes to read what you write, if they haven’t yet been poked out by other angry customers.

On the way to school, my Liad asked if his friend could come over in the afternoon. I cleverly used this impromptu plan to reschedule my day of fuse-beading. “I have the best idea!” I practically sang. “Maybe you guys can make your truck together! I’ll just save the project for you!” I added with false cheer. My son caught the bait, but I fully knew that it could backfire. There could be two kids spilling projects and demanding beading help from me. I was feeling daring and desperate, and so I took the risk.

I danced through my free time and before I knew it, it was time to pick up the boys. My son spent a minute showing his friend the scant few beads on the mold that we had placed on earlier that morning, but they were too busy playing Paw Patrol and pretending to be firemen to actually pause and do the laborious chore of putting on the beads. “Mommy, can you make it for me now?” Liad asked, looking up in the middle of his get-together. The guilt crept back up. I had avoided the early-morning beading. I had avoided the during-school beading. How much could I push this off? So I sat down to bead. It was truly unenjoyable.

To make matters worse, Liad did not like the colors I chose, and so later, when I wasn’t looking, he dumped it all out, and then expected me to start again in various shades of green. It pained me to spend any more time on this, especially since I knew the fate of these melted plastic shapes would be the same as that of their melted ancestors; death by garbage can. A child cannot play that much with a one-dimensional rendition of a truck. Or a striped star (my daughter intended to make this).

By a stroke of good luck, my very kind older son volunteered to do much of the beading instead of me, and after much work, the truck was finally done. And then it wasn’t so done for a few scary minutes when Liad tried to carry the project to me and it got jostled. But I fixed it up and then yelled at anyone who came between me and the iron. Nobody was allowed to breathe or speak until the beads were all affixed into place, and the house was thick with tension until it all melted away.

Once the ironing was done, I breathed a sigh of relief and handed the dump-truck to Liad, who hugged it close to his body for the next three days, and slept with it by his side. Although I would definitely rank this up there with Play-Doh or Orbeez (gelatinous balls that expand in the water, and then inadvertently spill by the thousands on your floor, and also can crumble into unsweepable gel-sand) on the Bad-Present List of 2016, it wasn’t so terrible for my older kids who had the patience and dexterity to sit through an entire project. Lest my son ask me to make him the airplane the following day, I scurried around the kitchen and removed all traces of the activity after he went to sleep, hoping, by morning, he would no longer remember, and then sat down to finally bask in some bead-free time.

By Sarah Abenaim

 Sarah Abenaim is a writer living in Teaneck. She can be reached at [email protected], and welcomes all comments, except if it’s to tell her she is a bad mother.