Mother Of Invention

puppetIf you’re like me, you might not have gotten the craft gene either. When push came to shove and my participation was required, I could usually pull it off, as long as I added in additional time for the accompanying nervous breakdown. Crafts just don’t come that naturally to me and my efforts don’t always turn out resembling anything specific, if you know what I mean.

So when my six-year-old came home from her first Indian Princess meeting with a kit for making a vest, you can imagine the terror that filled my heart. Indian Princesses is a Native American inspired daddy/daughter program and in their world, that vest is a big deal. When I signed her up, I had no idea that I would be responsible for delivering this item of such importance.

I looked at the box in horror and thought, Oh geez … this could get really ugly. Then I put it aside for days, and tried to convince myself that I could throw that vest together in a matter of minutes. No big deal, I would just do it “later.”

My “later” strategy worked pretty well right up to the day when she had to wear the blasted thing. That night, she was expected to announce the Native American names she had picked out for herself and her daddy. That’s right, Little Rose and Big Thorn (!) would be making their debut, along with the vest.

So I took a deep breath and finally opened the box that held the project. OH! I thought. Not so bad! All I have to do is iron on these patches and then stitch the sides together. Wow! Piece of cake! Dodged another bullet.

I started ironing, feeling pretty great, until I became aware of that distinctive “something’s burning” smell. Somehow, I had managed to put a big dark burn spot, front and center, on that cheap, buckskin sucker. No idea how I did it, but there it was. Since these kits had been ordered long ago from some far-away place, I couldn’t just run out and pick up another one.

At that point, I had to weigh my options – feign a case of appendicitis and pretend to need hospitalization for a couple days or suck it up and call a friend who did have the craft gene and ask for help. I chose the latter, thinking my husband would probably rat me out to my daughter within a few hours if I went with option A.

So I called my friend Pam and explained the disaster. “Oh,” she said. “Just make it Pinto!” Brilliant! Next she told me to go to the craft store and pick up some brown and black paint, a few brightly colored beads and a few feathers. “We’ll make a real Native American-y kind of vest and the spots will look deliberate.”

So that’s what I did. With Pam’s guidance, I painted on more spots and attached the beads and feathers to the sides and it turned out great. Then I had to see if my daughter would fall for the “I just wanted to make it really special” speech I had been working on. Luckily, she did. She absolutely loved her vest, and so did all of the other Indian Princesses. Many of them came to the next meeting with feathers and beads on theirs, too.

What I learned that day is that if you can’t sew a stitch, bake mouthwatering cookies or cobble a costume together, you can take heart. You don’t have to flip out when these scary kid-generated projects come your way. You needn’t farm them out or let them turn you into the pathetic kid whose dioramas always fall apart on the way to school. You can get by with a little help from your friends.

Nobody can do it all, and the sooner you make peace with that, the better off you’ll be. Why not think of life like a pot luck dinner rather than a solo performance? Everyone in this world (including you) has something wonderful to offer and each one’s offering contributes to the overall success of the party. What’s the point of having a fabulous entre if there are no plates or utensils to eat it with?

So figure out, early on, what you uniquely have to bring to the party and then be generous about sharing it with friends who might be lacking in that area. Maybe you’re the tech wizard or the baby whisperer. Maybe you’re a great book fair organizer or an outstanding soccer coach. Maybe you’re the one who is genius at planning a birthday party. Maybe you always know just what to say to a sorely disappointed child. You’ve got something terrific to offer, so make sure you pass it around when you get a chance to share.

And don’t be shy about asking for help, either. The best friendships are the ones in which there is a healthy reciprocity. If you take this approach, everyone will get their moment to shine, you’ll forge strong bonds with your friends and you’ll end up with a treasure trove of funny stories to look back on, too.

Many years later, Pam and I still get a good laugh out of the Indian Princess Pinto story…

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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.

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