I thought I’d share with you an essay that I wrote for Chicago Parent magazine. It was published in their November issue and I’ve reprinted it here with a few extra pictures:
I come from a long line of “makers.” My mom and I sew, quilt, knit and cross-stitch, so I am not surprised that my daughter E shows a natural propensity to make things. As a veteran crafter at age 8, she knits, crochets and weaves. She assembles little journals and covers them with drawings. She collects buttons, fabric and yarn. She adds a little extra flair to everything she owns.
What shocks me is the flip side of all this creativity — the Mess.
I don’t think my childhood crafts resulted in this much chaos, although my mother chuckles knowingly every time I complain. Throughout my house, the Mess spills across every horizontal surface-tables, couches, chairs, and even the floor. We routinely gather it up for recycling or organize it in various bags and boxes, but to no avail. The Mess returns again and again, like an unwanted houseguest who shows up all too soon for another extended stay.
My daughter never sees the Mess in the same light as I do. To her, it’s an offshoot of her artistic vision rather than another task on my cleaning checklist. The Mess never gets on her nerves, unless it hides her scissors under its cloak of discarded paper. While she concocts her latest craft, it spreads a jumble of paper bits, yarn fluff and broken crayon tips around her.
As two halves of the creative process, the Maker and the Mess are quite content together.
I’m constantly conflicted by this strange pairing of crafting and clutter. On the one hand, the Mess makes me crazy. I hate straightening up the same area over and over. I tire of telling E to put her things away because we need to use the dining room table.
And when other people drop by unexpectedly, I’m embarrassed that my living room looks like a confetti cannon exploded there moments before.
On the other hand, I want to encourage her to pursue these creative paths. I think her artistic hobbies help her to relax and find her true passions in life. If she enjoys folding paper into Star Wars characters and gluing googly eyes on pom-poms, I’m all for it.
More importantly, crafting provides me a way to connect with my child. As E and I curl up on the couch, knitting needles clicking away, we talk not just about yarn and scarves but also about her life, her dreams and her fears.
I’m grateful that she likes to create things with me because it gives us a line of communication that I will hold on to for dear life as she grows up.
So I’ve come to realize that as long as we have crafters in the house, the Mess is here to stay.
I’ll never stop trying to contain it, you understand, but it’s a small price to pay for forging this deep connection to my daughter. A small price indeed.