What My Graveyard of DIY Projects Taught Me About Parenting

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.

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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.

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6 thoughts on “What My Graveyard of DIY Projects Taught Me About Parenting

  1. Great post! I agree with you. I have a box in a cabinet filled with old pom-poms, stick-on letters, little jewels all kept from projects we did when the boys were in Middle School. I think the hardest project and the one that can’t be shown on Pinterest or Instagram when completed is the molding and coaxing of children into a well-adjusted teen-agers and adults (hopefully), all the mistakes along the way, readjustments – you are right raising children is like a never-ending DIY project (and someone else always seems to be doing a better job of it).

    • It is never-ending right? Just last week I was wishing my boys would stop their bickering/fighting/complaining and for some reason I had pinned my hopes on “when they get older”. My sister-in-law kept it real for me and shared that her teens are still bickering/fighting/complaining. Appearances can be deceiving. Thanks for weighing in.

  2. I completely understand the feeling you get when you think your not a great parent when something’s not perfect. I personally feel like that because I’m 19 with 2 children and that right there is where people constantly judge me and I get a nagging feeling from all the comments bouncing around in the back of my head. But I’ve learnt to let it roll of my shoulder because I am a good mom I am very dedicated to my fiancé and children and will always go the extra mile for them even if it kills me. And unfinished projects, good golly I love crafts and I’ve been wanting to do a quilt I started, never finished, and moved leaving it behind. Really wish I had finished it but life must go on.

  3. Love this, makes me feel so much better about what I’m managing to get accomplished in these early stages of nesting. As I create and put together what I might think others would see as less than enough it gives me confidence that its only me who’s judging and no one else really cares.

  4. I have been thinking a lot about this. I feel like we, as mothers have to always be doing something and having DIY activities and things for our kids. Birthday parties especially! I am getting more of these projects done since I stay at home, but when I was working I was feeling overwhelmed and less of a mom because I just didn’t have the time. Thank you for your post.

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