Behold the graveyard of DIY projects.
There is a box of papers, colorful scissors with various edges, a hodgepodge of stickers, stamps and decals residing on a shelf in my office closet. Last year I discarded a two-inch stack of recipes torn from magazines promising mouth-watering delicacies. A clear, plastic, zippered pouch that contains two spools of soft, chocolatey brown yarn and a partially completed scarf resting on needles has followed us to two homes and remains under my bed.
I had never given much thought to the DIY culture until I became a mom and then I couldn’t escape it. Personalized Valentine’s Day cards, hand-stitched Halloween costumes, laboured over meals, ornately designed snack foods, and play dates requiring more scheduling and production than a low-budget highschool musical seemed to be the norm. I mean, WTF ever happened to just knocking on someone’s door and playing with a Skip-it in the yard while eating FunDip? And then just when I thought I had it somewhat figured out, Pinterest came along and upped the game.
I spent years on that hamster wheel trying to do it all and do it “right”, but the years have brought me three busy boys, and an acceptance that “good enough” is really good enough. I learned to identify, appreciate and accept my limitations.
This year I did make my son’s skeleton costume for Halloween but it was the process more than the end product that proved to be “pin-worthy”. My son and I worked together to turn my son’s vision into reality. He learned the importance of communication and teamwork. I learned there are no perfect skeletons but there are happy kids.
Being honest with myself is difficult. I used to feel that doing everything for myself was somehow a reflection of my worth as a mother. If the Valentine’s Day cards were perfect, than somehow this meant that I was a good mother, a kind mother, a patient mother, the mother that we are all supposed to be. Never mind that it was a grueling process with me snatching the scissors from my boy’s hand while muttering with exasperation, “I’ll do it”. Never mind that while eating a store-bought birthday cake at little Jimmy’s party or surveying the parade of made in China Buzz Light Year costumes knocking on my door, it never once crossed my mind that these mothers were “bad” mothers, lazy mothers or not the mothers that we are all supposed to be.
I thought that people were judging but it was really me who was doing the judging.
There is a part of me that does long for DIY projects. I am nostalgic for the lost arts that generations before were commonplace. I am amazed when my husband fixes things around the house without consulting You Tube. It’s his confidence that I admire as much as the skill. Now when I find myself lost in a chosen project, it’s the sense of calm and the absence of expectations that I find as rewarding as the final project.
My experience with parenting and DIY projects is very similar. At first I was lured by the glossy images promising picture perfection but it’s the fails: the shattered glass, the burnt dough, the botched hemline – that’s when the real learning occurs. It’s often the most basic projects, the ones that are the least glamorous or fun, that most need mastering and bring about the greatest sense of accomplishment.