(im)perfection

This week is Book Week. Juniordwarf’s school is having a Book Week Parade and the kids are all encouraged to dress up as a character from their favourite book.
 

Two years ago he wanted to be The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and I did this.
Last year he was a pirate, which was easy because he already had a pirate costume.
This year he said he wanted to be The Cat In The Hat. 
I figured this wouldn’t be too hard, and set about planning how I was going to do this
I always thought one of he fun things about primary school-age kids would be doing stuff like making costumes. You know, in all that spare time I have. Yeah.
I can remember my mother making me a Wild Thing costume in primary school for something our class was doing around the book Where The Wild Things Are.
(It looked like this:)

I assume I could actually breathe in this outfit
I figured if my mother could create such a thing out of an old blanket, I could come up with a cat costume pretty easily. Black pants, a black and white top, a tail and OH MY GOODNESS HOW THE HELL DO YOU MAKE HATS?
(Luckily a nearby craft supply store just happened to stock red and white striped hats exactly like the one the Cat in the Hat wears, which I discovered when I went in to get my supplies for this crafty endeavour. Enormous relief.)
I got out the sewing machine. Yes the very same sewing machine I got for Xmas two years ago and had not actually used. The same sewing machine listed at Number 24 on my 100 things to do in 2013 list(24. Sew something. Anything. Just use the damn sewing machine!).
Once I worked out how to thread it (which could be a whole post in itself – my mother’s old basic Bernina it is not), it was time for action.
The black pants were going to be easy. I based them on the same pattern I used for the caterpillar costume. 
OK, not quite so easy. Fluffy polar fleece isn’t quite as easy to sew as I thought it would be. I mean, it moves when you sew it. What kind of sorcery is this?
Anyway, I got there eventually. The pants were done. I’m totally rocking this crafty mama thing.
I didn’t have any sweatshirt patterns. No drama. How hard can it be? It’s just four pieces right? A front, a back and two sleeves. So I can just trace one of his sweatshirts and copy that.
Seam allowance? Pfft, who needs that? It’s a cat outfit. It’s meant to be tight.
 
See, it fits him.
Oh, you know what? You should have sewed the sleeves into the shoulders before you sewed up the side seams.
Well I’ll just trace the top of the sleeve using the arm hole as a guide, extend it to the length of his arm, and narrow it in at the bottom. Then I can just sew the sleeve in to the arm hole. No worries.
NO WORRIES? WHAT, ARE YOU KIDDING? HAVE A LOOK AT THIS! THE SLEEVES AREN’T WIDE ENOUGH! WHATEVER HAPPENED TO “MEASURE TWICE, CUT ONCE?”
True. In most garments the sleeves actually join up under the arm. 
Bugger.
By this time I was getting somewhat frustrated at this whole exercise. Who said the crafty mama thing was fun? I actually wanted to do this? What was I thinking?
Juniordwarf was watching me. “So I don’t think this is going to be a very good costume,” I said to him.
He looked at me.
Then said, “I don’t mind. It doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, I don’t want it to be perfect.”
I thought back to where I’d heard this before. It had come from Juniordwarf’s teacher. His class is doing Art this term, and the teacher has been stressing the point very strongly that their art doesn’t have to be perfect and it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t look exactly like what they’re drawing and painting or if it doesn’t look the same as anyone else’s work. The idea is to capture what they see and reproduce it the way they see it themselves – so how one child sees something and draws it will be different to how any other child sees it.
The displays around the classroom are testament to this, and it’s fascinating to see each child’s style in their work.
While I was thinking about this, Juniordwarf then proceeded to quote what I’ve often said to him, right back at me. “It doesn’t matter if you make a mistake. We all make mistakes. Mistakes are how we learn.”
 
And you know what struck me most? That while I’m encouraging him not to be hard on himself and not set himself impossible standards, I continue to expect myself to be perfect and to never make a mistake.
It’s not going to be enough for him to hear these messages is it? I can’t really tell him not to seek perfection if I continue to expect it of myself. He’ll catch on to that one day, and how am I going to explain that? 
“Well . . . it’s OK for you not to do things perfectly, but I’m different. I have to.” 
Not really convincing is it? I’m not different. 
So for him to truly embrace these messages, he has to see them in action. That means he has to see me make mistakes and see how I learn from them. He has to see me accept less than perfect. He has to know that I believe what I’m saying. And therefore, I have to believe it.
Maybe I should go back to Grade 1. 

(P.S. Costume is not quite finished . . . but it will fit him and I expect it will hold together for a day. So all is well.)

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2 thoughts on “(im)perfection

  1. Hi Monica – yes it was a pretty crazy plan … but it almost worked. I can picture exactly what the arm hole and the sleeve top should look like, and how they fit together. I've even done it. Once. But, in the same way I can picture in my mind how to reverse park yet cannot actually do it, I managed to completely mis-measure this and the sleeve was too small! Fun times 🙂

  2. Congratulations on actually attempting to make Juniordwarf's outfit. BTW, I wouldn't have attempted to make a top with sleeves without a pattern. It's all about geometry and the armhole curves one way, while the top of the sleeve curves a different way – and they somehow meet up just right when sewn together (usually). I made some nightdresses for Emma recently but wouldn't even do that without a pattern – but I'm a wuss.

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