The little I am I
Mira Lobe, German
Over the course of this article, I’ll be cursing like a sailor and making a fool of myself. Why? Because I’ve been forced to sew together a bizarre stuffed animal for my daughter. Only, she’ll be taking no part in the activity. Here’s why this overwhelming attempt at needlework is my personal idea of hell.
By the time the mention of «arts and crafts» crops up, it’s already gone 8 p.m. «So if we could now turn our attention to our arts and crafts section,» the kindergarten teacher says, voice charged with excitement. Could? Don’t make me laugh. As if this is optional! While I’m pondering this abuse of the conditional tense, the teacher holds up an indistinct, fringe-covered stuffed animal. It’s what our handiwork is supposed to look like once we’re done. «You’ll find fabric, a needle, thread and self-explanatory instructions on the tables.»
I should mention this is at a parents’ evening. During the first hour and a half, we introduced ourselves at length before being given a rigorous rundown on the content of the kids’ gym bags, as well as birthday celebration procedure. And now we’re meant to do needlework as well. Sewing a stuffed animal! On the first day of kindergarten two weeks prior, it was just a case of making an easy name badge with a piece of felt. Haven’t we just skipped at least three levels?
Don’t question it, just get it done quickly, I think to myself. Around 30 parents then squeeze together around the craft tables, sitting on chairs that are far too small and far too scarce in number. People are cutting, sewing and stuffing, and I valiantly follow suit. At first, anyway.
Fifteen minutes later, I’m on the brink of a nervous breakdown, planning my escape. Gathering up the equipment I need, I say my goodbyes. Beforehand, we’d fortunately been given official permission to finish sewing the soft toy at home. Oh, but do be sure to get it done within a week.
Now, guess what…
Exactly one week later, my daughter comes home from kindergarten with a symbol drawn on her hand. A reminder to her to remind me that I’ve missed the needlework deadline. Dammit!
That same evening, I sit down at the dining table, cursing myself («You’re too daft even to follow these apparently self-explanatory instructions») before giving myself a pep talk («You’ve managed more difficult things than this»). Finally, I remember the words of my own mother («I’m all thumbs when it comes to sewing»). Mum, I feel you! Even as I attempt to whip out my best needlework skills, they’re still atrocious.
At least I get to sit in an adults’ chair now. With an adults’ drink beside me to boot. Cheers!
I. Hate. Arts and crafts. That’s no secret. It’s also very much a me problem. Sometimes, I simply have to grin and bear it.
In this instance, however, I just don’t get the point. Why should I be doing needlework, crammed into a mini chair, surrounded by adults I don’t even know? Because it’s just so much fun? No. Because it’s for my daughter? Well, if that’s the reason, then she should be sitting next to me. If I absolutely must do arts and crafts, I want to get to choose what I’m making, when I’m making it and where. Most importantly, I want to choose who I’m doing it all with. My children, to be exact.
I actually do this from time to time because, ironically, my girls love arts and crafts (where on earth did they get that from?) We draw pictures. We carve pumpkins. We bake Christmas cookies (that counts as crafting in my book, okay?)
And we carve St. Martin’s Day lanterns. We’ll soon have the chance to do this again – or rather, have to do it again – at the kindergarten. The day before the St Martin’s parade, the parents will once again huddle up on the tiny chairs to help their ham-fisted children hollow out and decorate their turnip lanterns. In my opinion, it makes sense to have a kindergarten crafting session on this occasion. My daughter and I will get to spend time together and work on something as a team.
I’d even take half a day off work for it. If only this delightful morning of lantern carving didn’t happen to fall on my husband’s childcare day. Sorry, not sorry.
In return, I’m the one stuck with the stuffed animal needlework project. On top of the half-hour session at kindergarten, I need another two hours at home to get it finished. Maybe this is just my incompetence talking, but I’m adamant every other parent with average sewing skills must have spent at least an hour on it.
When I finish, I don’t even know what the thing is supposed to be. It looks like a fat elephant with a pointed nose, a floral pattern and a tousled horse’s mane. It just looks like a ...thing. My daughter, however, enlightens me: «That’s the 'I am me', silly!» After googling the children’s book character, I actually do notice some similarities with my elephant horse.
Similarities aside, the kindergarten teacher (who, barring her crafting ambitions, I adore) is likely to look at my daughter’s final product with pity. She’s probably thinking, «Poor child!» And she’s kinda right.
Days later, my daughter comes home in tears. Her «I am me» animal’s head has gone all wobbly. «Mummy, you should have sewn it on better!» she scolds. «I know, my child, I know,» I think to myself. I then insist that this is exactly what it’s supposed to be like. «An animal needs to be able to nod.» Obviously.Header image: Katja Fischer