“I am not a maker.” This is my mantra.
I wail it at Matt after I relieve him of dinner duties and then serve up plates of bubbling brown waste that taste like quinoa and trauma.
I mutter it under my breath as I try to draw Spiderman from memory under the watchful eye of a judgey three-year old, who shrieks in contempt when I add too much blue to the arms.
I think it in my head as I read through descriptions of art classes at community studios and decide to stay home and watch a show about murder instead.
I do not enjoy the crafts. It took me a while to accept this fact about myself, and longer to stop pretending it wasn’t so. A lot of innocent people had to suffer through my half-assed potluck dishes and janky homemade gifts and fidgety demeanor at their craft parties.
I have put lives at risk by making spaghetti sauce for family members and skipping the appropriate canning procedures—basically handing everyone a jar filled with tomatoes and deadly bacteria.
Last summer I picked a big bowl of grapes from our backyard, posted a wildly ambitious Instagram about how I was going to make jam, then left the grapes in the back of the fridge for months until they turned into a furry purple puddle.
I don’t have the patience and attention to detail that cooking and crafting (and probably life) demand. Every time I take on a project, Matt cheerfully remarks, “Another episode of ‘Cutting Corners with Kate’!” and I get all indignant, then proceed to cut every corner until I am left with ruin and damnation.
As a consumer, I love the crafts. I believe in them. I happily eat people’s homemade cakes (while they are sleeping) and purchase their amazing artwork to display around my house, which smells of burnt quinoa and rotting grapes. But why do I feel like it makes me less of an interesting person to admit that I do not want to carve a watermelon into a dinosaur for my kids? I honestly don’t even want to dye Easter eggs with them, but apparently you can go to jail for not doing that.
Not being crafty isn’t the worst thing in the world until you have children. Then it makes you an asshole. Most of my friends and family are makers of one sort or another, and I enjoy their talent immensely until I see how thoughtful and quirky their kids’ Halloween costumes are, while my children are stuffed into store-bought hot dog outfits made from cancerous Chinese fabrics.
My own mother sewed our Halloween costumes every year, built us a dollhouse using tongue depressors and made us life-size rag dolls that haunted our dreams.
She baked cookies and pies, helped us with our science fair projects, and read to us at night—books like “Anne of Green Gables” and “Jamaica Inn,” which is a story about an albino vicar who shipwrecks, plunders and kills along the coast of Cornwall. We would go to bed with bellies full of molasses sugar cookies and minds full of wicked white priests, while enormous dolls watched over us as we slept.
And it was wonderful. Unfortunately I walked away from my childhood with none of my mother’s craft abilities—only an enduring love for tales of murder.
I feel like my kids have gotten the short end of the stick when I look online and see that my friends were making clothing and art and kombucha and yogurt while I was lying facedown in my sons’ beds as they wrestled on top of me, hoping the experience would somehow approximate a massage. The makers end up with something delicious or beautiful for their efforts and I end up with someone kicking me in the vagina.
I am not impervious to the pressure to be crafty. I told myself that if I could pick one simple thing to master then it wouldn’t be so bad. “I can be the mom who makes the best chocolate chip cookies,” I decided one day, then baked one mediocre batch and threw in the towel. “I can be the mom who buys the best chocolate chip cookies,” I thought as I settled in to watch “Making a Murderer.”
When it comes to “making,” I’m a 100% handcrafted quitter. A Pinterest cautionary tale. A lazy, wasteful consumer who is ruining the planet by having hot dog costumes shipped from China in bulk instead of making them herself with … pillows … and … erg …pantyhose?
I dunno! I’m not a maker, dammit!
Funny enough, Matt’s sister works at Etsy—a billion-dollar marketplace driven by an ingenious craft army. She is crazy talented and creative, and when we went to the Outer Banks on vacation last week with a bunch of friends, she brought t-shirts and puffy paint and googly eyeball stickers and decals for the kids to design their own fashions. Then another one of our friends had the kids decorate and bake cookies. And another one grabbed a melon baller and made a fun fruit and veggie tray for them. The kids had a blast, and as I watched them in their weird shirts, clutching glow sticks and carrot sticks, dancing to David Bowie, it made me want to be a better maker.
I think the pressure I feel to be a craftier person is partly outdated gender expectations, partly my own insecurity but mostly a real, deep-seated longing to make sure my kids experience the very specific kind of love that lives in personal gestures—drawing with them, reading to them, baking for them. The stuff that my mom did with me that I remember and cherish. My sons don’t notice that my voice is cracking and tired when I read, or that my cookies are dense little nuggets of disappointment, or that my Spiderman looks like a member of Blue Man Group (kidding, they absolutely notice that).
It’s less about the outcome, less about my own enjoyment and more about just making the effort. I don’t know that I’ll ever love crafting, but I’m gonna keep hacking away at it for the sake of my kids, cutting as many corners as I can in the process.
So next Halloween, our sons might be dressed in pillowcases and pantyhose. Or they may be home sick with botulism from my spaghetti sauce. But by God, they will know the clumsy, hamfisted touch of a mother who loves them enough to give them a half-assed try.