Today, I killed about one million trees in the Amazon rainforest.
Not by using a chainsaw, but simply by wrapping Christmas and Hanukkah gifts. I meant well when I started out, but by the third gift, all of the care and patience I had was thrown out the window, and suddenly, stuff was getting wrapped in rapid speed, and I used way too much paper. Every time I will think I've measured it out right (my ex used to tell me, "Just use the little line guides they have on the paper"), but my mind just doesn't think all Martha Stewart, military-bounce a quarter off the bed sheets. I'm meticulous as hell and a neat freak, but give me a gift to wrap, and it will look like a toddler art display, but with prettier wrapping.
This is what happens when you suck at DIY.
Don't get me wrong. I can paint within the lines, draw a damn good flower, bird, and tree, and even trace or sketch by sight fairly well, but when I look at Pinterest or Craftsy, I feel very less-than-mom-rific. Let's just say if Pinterest Mommy sits down next to Laura Lifshitz in art class and we work on the same project — some mosaic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, hers will be an exact replica of the model. Mine will look like dog turd with red glitter streaking through.
Why am I not awesome at crafts? Well, despite my love for drawing and coloring as a child, crafts require a few things I don't have. One of them is time and patience. I have no time to spare as a full-time working single mom, and then there's that lack of patience I inherited from my father. When I see numbered directions beyond four steps anywhere, I just about flip my lid and say "Screw this!" as I throw the directions in the air.
Then of course there's the fact that I could read the newspaper at 3 — even The New York Times, but it took me awhile to master the scissors. Don't worry — I was cutting fine by age 4, but I wouldn't say I was military-precise. So when it comes to using tools of any kind, guard your life when you're around me. I don't care if it's a butter knife or safety scissors — you better duck if you want your life and don't want your hair cut!
Oddly enough, one of my hobbies that relaxes me the most is making jewelry, in particular necklaces and earrings. The beads look nice, but clamping and other fancy-schmancy crap takes me a bit of time. You won't find me signing up my "designs" on Etsy anytime soon. The fact is I don't have that gene that says, "Ooh look at these little trinkets! I'll just smush them together and then voilà — an amazing vase, wedding shower favor, or little girl's headband." I have that gene that says, "Make something pretty," but then it comes out looking more Dollar Store than Disney, if the Dollar Store even gives me a penny for my junk. It's enough to make me feel some days as if I should return my mom card. How will I ever compete with the PTO moms who can knit bedazzled bandages made out of organic cotton and create castles out of toothpicks? Or the dance moms who can sew full-on cabaret-style costumes without breaking a nail? (One good reason to avoid crafts — protect those manicures!) I can't. I can't compete.
If you're like me and couldn't put your arm back on if it said, "Attach here with Velcro," here are some things you can do, instead of DIY-ing up the town in a puffy paint and cross-stitch frenzy:
Enjoy the Process
When my daughter was 15 months old, we did a mommy-and-me class together, and during the art section, at least half of the moms would "correct" what the toddlers were doing to make the art look pretty. Inside my head, I thought that was so ridiculous. The whole point in having the art section was for the children to enjoy the art process. To feel textures and have a sensory experience, not to whip up a little Monet. They weren't even potty-trained yet. How were they supposed to use a paintbrush within the lines? I felt some of the moms were forgetting that art isn't just about the end result — it's really about the process.
If you enjoy crafting but suck at it, who cares? Do it because you love it. I know some very good drawers and people who are technically good at visual arts, but they lack the creativity to really make themselves artists. There's something to be said about the process. Create just to create, not to be the next Mrs. Stewart.
Use Your Other Skills
When it comes to birthday parties, showers, kids' teams, events, or school projects, use your other talents. For example, my beautiful friend Jessica is about to have a baby, and man, was I thrilled when I learned I could use my talents elsewhere, and not to make her baby shower favors. I'm pretty sure after I attempted to make a chocolate rattle or something, she would have been upset when it ended up looking more phallic than like a baby toy. Instead, I am going to do the invitations, plan special things for the day of the shower, and then work on a project that involves my writing skills.
My daughter's dance class may never see me sew a costume, and I may beg my daughter's dad to make science-fair projects, but if she needs someone to do marketing for her dance school or to organize a show, I'm their girl. When it comes to school, I can help her with presentations. Papers. Studying tips. I can't bake a cake that will make the PTO mom green with envy, but I could debate in front of the Board of Education if I had to. If you can't craft, don't worry. You've got plenty of other things you can do — and do right. Not every mom is born to rainbow loom the whole Frozen cast.
Buy That Stuff!
Don't feel shame. Time is a big issue when it comes to crafts or participating in school parties for my kid. Buy whatever you need to save time or save your sanity if you can't glue two objects together. There's no shame in buying something. That's why Shop Rite has a bakery section, and that's why there's Etsy — for us noncrafters and non-baking-queens to have someone to do the work we can't do — and do it right.
When All Else Fails, Use Pinterest
If you absolutely must make something, use Pinterest. Sure, it won't look as good as the "pin photo," but at least it might hold together. For about five minutes.
At the end of the day, it's OK to stand up and say, "I suck at DIY." Every parent has a gift to share. The trick is to let those gifts shine, whatever they may be.