Have you heard of Kiwi Crate? It’s a fun little mail-to-your-doorstep program, where every month, a cute little box comes to your mailbox, filled with all the tools and supplies you need to do a couple of art projects. (They totally don’t give us any freebies for saying so, but we think they’re pretty awesome, especially for crafty ladies like us.)
So recently, Kiwi Crate finally named their little kiwi character “Steve,” and Myla was excited.
“I’d like to make a Steve doll!” she said. Since this usually involves basically ME doing all the work, I sort of brushed it off for another time. “But I think I can make it all by myself!” she said excitedly, digging through her craft box with all the giddy anticipation of a newly hatched idea.
Allright, I thought. I’ll help her with the basic sewing. She’ll get a chance to see the sewing machine in action, and she can do the rest herself.
Carefully and meticulously, she cut shapes out of the felt that came with one of the monthly project kits, along with a few extra supplies from my sewing box. She quickly and furiously drew the shapes out herself, cut them out herself. It was HER vision, and she was so EXCITED.
And when the time came, I had her place her hand next to mine on the machine, and I had her help me guide it to sew on the little beak. I had her help me pull the little needle and thread through the button eyes. And things were going well. How cute! What a great learning experience! I thought…
Until we put the stuffing in.
“When does it get bigger? I wanted it to be the size of a pillow to cuddle with. Isn’t it going to get bigger?”
…Uhhhh. Oh my.
It was then that I realized that in all her furious anticipation, she had a goal in mind of exactly what she wanted this little kiwi to look like, and this tiny blue thing was NOT living up to those expectations at ALL.
As this reality hit her, she became instantly inconsolable. Those of you who have spent time with kids this age might be familiar with the complete and utter irrationality of a kid-tantrum. They’re these things that are unexpected, unexplainable, and completely bewildering. There’s no use saying, “But you cut it out! You must have KNOWN how big it was?!?” There’s no use saying, “How would it possibly get BIGGER?!?!” These things mean nothing to a small child. All they know is that Thing A was in their head, and Thing B does NOT match up.
And OOOOhhhhhhh the tears. Oh the crying. Oh, the dramatic frustration. It was safe to say that we were done with the kiwi for the day.
Later, when the tears had finally stopped flowing, we had a chance to talk. “You were upset because you thought when you stuffed it, it would get bigger?” “Yes,” she said. “Do you understand that freaking out about it doesn’t change anything?” “Yes,” she said. “Can we do something about it? Can we make a bigger one?” she asked me, hurriedly.
But to avoid the bandaid trapping of instant gratification, I insisted we would need to wait. From now on, if we were going to do this, we would take our time. We would draw out a design, pick the fabrics, take a couple of days, and make a PLAN.
And now, this is our new word for projects: PLAN.
Several days later, after many talks about calming down and using our words, we drew pictures, we picked out fabrics, and we started working on another Steve.
We drew pictures. We picked out button eyes. We talked about his beak and his wings. We chose which fabrics to use from my fabric stash. She helped me sew him. She helped me stuff him. She drew out what kind of legs she imagined he’d have.
It’s a hard lesson, when your imagination doesn’t match up with your reality. It’s amazing to keep your imagination in the stars, but you also have to be aware of what’s actually within your reach, and when you’re totally and completely off-track.
Another thing that’s so hard for a kid to grasp is that if you take your time and plan something out, it makes for a MUCH better project with a much better plan. These days, when everything is available at the touch of a button, it’s easy to forget that there’s also legitimate value in WAITING.
Myla’s five, and I’ve only just begun to try her on a chapter book at bedtime; one of my childhood favorites: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster. “I think I’ve already seen that show,” she said, “and some of the creatures scared me.” “But that’s the great thing,” I said. “It can be totally different in your imagination.”
Every night when we read a chapter or two, she asks me, “Will we go ahead and just finish it tonight?” And every night I tell her that we just have to wait to see what happens. Of course, she’s impatient, but she accepts it with excitement. I thought her attention would dwindle, but so far she seems to be hanging on.
Later, we set the kiwis side by side, and I asked her to look at them with me.
“They’re both beautiful,” I said. We talked about how when you have a great idea, it’s great to want to get it out as quickly as possible, but that sometimes when you take your time and plan it out, you have a chance to make it better, make it stronger, make it more like what you had in mind, maybe do things you hadn’t thought of before, or do them in different ways. When you rush, you might get the idea out quickly, but planning it out helps you figure things out that you might not have done with the rushed version. Since we took time to plan out the second kiwi, we made its wings flap down, so they could lay down to his side (instead of stick out to the sides) and we were able to make his beak stick straight out, like a kiwi’s.
It’s got to be hard for kids, growing up in our new world of on-demand tv, DVR, instant downloading, live streaming, wifi, and online shopping to understand the process of having to wait for ANYTHING. I have to remind myself that that waiting is something that kids today are much less familiar with. It’s not a skill they have ever really had to use. It’s not better or worse than when I was a kid, it’s just different. There’s no use pining for the past. It’s how we live now, and there’s no use trying to completely change the world and live in a cabin somewhere….
….But I think slowing things down a little is a pretty good habit to make from time to time…