Last night, I did one of my favorite annual family traditions - only this year it looked different. On the night before the first day of school, I always write a decorative message for the kids to wake up to on their first day. Usually it’s a chalkboard and I try to get fancy shmancy with my writing. Only this year, the chalkboard was trashed because we had left it outdoors for too long. So I busted out my backup whiteboard for just this occasion. Except the whiteboard markers were all dried up. They were all I had, so I was determined to make it work - toilet paper entrepreneur-style. So I tried each one to eek out whatever faint marks I could. Next I tried breathing on them to revive them a bit. (I have no idea if this works, but it felt right at the time.) Then I tried pressing harder and then writing with the side of the tip. In the end, I got a somewhat legible message on the board. I’m glad I did it, but it’s a 50:50 shot whether the kids will be able to read it or not.
As I sat back and looked at my handiwork, setting it out for the kids to see first thing in the morning, I sighed and kind of chuckled a bit. It felt like a lot of what this past year had been like. Great plans, great ambitions, and the growing realisation that it’s not going to work out as planned. This is followed by quickly pivoting, trying something else, thinking you’re getting into a groove before you realize - nope - not working. So you try harder or try something else. You say goodby to what you had hoped for and make your peace with what has to be. It’s not awesome. Certainly nearly as awesome as what was planned. But it is still something. I put my not-lovely sign out for the kids to see because I want them to see I tried and doing your best is better than giving up when you fall short of perfection. I feel like that’s a message I want to keep front of mind as we enter this new school year.
It got me thinking about the first baby blanket I ever crocheted. I used the same pattern my mom used for made for me. It's Tunisian crochet in the center with a filet/granny square checkered border. The Tunisian middle went exactly as planned, but things fell apart when I got to the border. I’m not sure whether my gauge was wrong or if I was adding stitches, but the border started to ruffle like a loofah! I frogged multiple times and tried again, but couldn’t figure out what needed to change. So it sat in my parent’s basement for longer than I like to admit.
Fast forward several years later and I was expecting my first baby. I just new I wanted to tackle that pattern again. I was on bed rest, but crocheting was one of the only activities I could do. My mom came out to help out while I was on bed rest and I knew it would be perfect to get her help with the border when I needed it. Except this time, the border went without a hitch. My mom helped me more with the main body (because I got a bee in my bonnet about knitting the middle), but I didn’t have issues with the border. How did that happen? It happened because in between those two baby blanket attempts I had done oodles of other projects with mistakes I had to rip out. Trying different things over and over got me to the point where not only did I know how to troubleshoot issues, but also how to avoid them in the first place.
More than that, it taught me how to shape things. So now I can add ruffles when I want (like the Olivia Ruffle Headband and Getaway Spa Set) and avoid them otherwise. Learning what works and doesn’t work helps me to come up with new ideas and make them into finished products. The screw ups and perseverance taught me not just how to read patterns, but how to improvise. This skill is what brings me the most joy with crocheting now. It feels incredibly empowering, though most of it was learned through struggles or painstaking hours of trial and error.
This makes me cautiously optimistic we may find this sort of growth on the other side of the pandemic. It can’t make up for all that we’ve lost, but we may get some pandemic power-ups to show for it. I learned how to multitask distance learning and working from home at the same time. I learned new ways of having fun as a family. I learned it is possible to do a big Google Hangout with families spread across the globe. I learned how to BBQ. None of these things is earth shattering, but they expand my repertoire and I’m grateful to have these newly acquired skills.
As my kids enter the year ahead, still filled with ridiculous amounts of uncertainty, I really do hope they will learn how to troubleshoot when things don’t go how you want, the value of perseverance and the new power ups you can unlock when you’re forced to learn and adapt. Pushing through the challenging is so so worth it because you unlock new abilities and a vast amount of untapped joy on the other side and that's the thing I hope the kids learn above anything else this school year.