Fake It Till You Don’t Make It

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“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.

  • Cyndi
    September 9, 2016

    I love and look forward to reading your accounts of a mom raising triplets! You’re crafty at finding humor in your motherly experiences and expressing them in just a way that makes me laugh out loud! If another mom is not relating to your experiences …. They must have a nanny or housekeeper, just sayin’.
    Keep crafting these stories and stay away from scissors!

  • KB Brandt
    September 9, 2016

    Again another extremely entertaining blog. You are so talented, you write like a pro and soon you will be a noted pro. Crafting isn’t all it is cracked up to be. Go craftless.

  • Kathleen Brehony
    September 9, 2016

    LOVE THIS ONE!!!!!

  • Ann S
    September 9, 2016

    You have the wonderful craft of writing a good story…..not many people can write with such humor and honesty.!! Love it keep them coming…..

  • Barbara
    September 9, 2016

    But you are the “maker” of incredibly funny and heartwarming stories that will be read by your “crafty” friends forever!

  • Nancy Irminger
    September 10, 2016

    Made me laugh out loud! I can so relate to not crafting! Your children may not have crafting memories but what they will have after you are long gone is treasured words written by their mother that ooze with examples of how much she loves them. They are also blessed with a mother with a remarkable sense of humor.

  • Erin Collins
    September 10, 2016

    Omg Kate I am not a maker either! I do t even make dinner! Lol!!!!

  • Kristin
    September 11, 2016

    Pinterest is the devil and makes us noncrafters feel inferior for no reason. I suspect there are thousands more Pinterest fails for every success, but we typically don’t see the honest, self effacing truth from moms on social media. So thank you for your honesty and humor and sharing your beautiful writing with us. I think you’re an amazing mom and those tips are lucky to have you!

    It’s time for the non-crafters to unite!

  • Jessica
    September 11, 2016

    I’m with you! For the past two years I have had every intention of making a Pinterest worthy bday party for my daughter and ended up not doing any of the ideas I had spent hours researching.. Ended up decorating with her own artwork and buying store bought cupcakes, it was the best ever and she had a blast! Social media is evil, at the end of the day our kids just want to spend time with us and that’s what they will remember.

    I always enjoy reading your posts! Thanks for sharing.

    September 11, 2016

    Your writing is your craft. What a gift your blog will be to your sons when they are old enough to appreciate it. It is now a gift to all of us moms. I am a 71 year old mom, your blogs make me smile with memories of when my sons were 3, and make me smile as a grandparent watching my children trying their best to be good parents. BTW children care less about the product than the process, a good lesson to learn from them. Love your Blog!

  • Faye Wilfong
    September 12, 2016

    Love this one Kate! I am confident many of us can relate to your blog. Your boys will love you with or without the crafts!

  • Carolyn Laurenzo
    September 12, 2016

    I was crafty and all that stuff when I had two, but when #3 and then #4….Not so much..
    but I sure didn’t have the talent you have for crafting stories or blogs…Keep it up..they will be proud of you..just as we are..Love you!!

  • Carolyn Laurenzo
    September 12, 2016

    Love this!!!
    I was a bit “crafty” with #1 and #2, but when #3 and then quickly thereafter #4…I barely kept my head above water. I can’t imagine getting to #3 immediately…so keep crafting your stories, it’s an awesome gift…they will be so proud of you as are we..

  • rupa
    September 13, 2016

    ahhhh you might not be a crafter but you are a F*ING GOOD WRITER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! + one of a kind momma to your boys.

  • Déva
    September 15, 2016

    Kate – I love this! You make me laugh so hard! You really ARE the best mother on the whole planet. In fact, I wish you were my mother!

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