A few weeks ago, I was ambushed by a friend at work. She emailed me with a plea to teach something – anything, really – as an after-school activity.
I thought, This could be fun! Maybe a knitting class?
So I signed up to teach a four-week knitting class to five sixth-grade girls.
I think I forgot what it was like to be a sixth-grade girl.
It became pretty apparent during that first class that these girls had big personalities. One, the ring-leader, is obsessed with “winning,” with being “the best,” and is a self-proclaimed perfectionist. I sat and listened to her talk, and I felt an immediate sense of dislike and understanding. So much of my time was wasted on that same feeling. I wanted to fast-forward to when this little girl would not longer feel like she had to knit perfectly the first time, tell me all the things she was good at, or explain why her grandma had more talent than I did.
Another of the girls is quieter, but just as diligent. She came to class with her wrist in a cast, but she was still determined to learn how to knit. She is by far the least talkative, but her eyes are always lit, always watching, and she’s the one with the quiet witty comments.
One girl is also bent on knitting the perfect scarf. I told them that it would take a long time to get good, that it took me months to make something, and even then there were often spots that weren’t perfect. But this girl asks me every few rows, “Does this look okay?”, and she even emailed me over the weekend for suggestions on what to do if she had too many stitches.
These girls are going to make very detailed leaders someday.
Or, perhaps, type-A moms.
Two of the girls are a little slower at picking it up. They hold their yarn too tightly, straining the fibers until they become untwisted. Their stitches are uneven, they add and subtract stitches at random, until the edges of the scarf are completely misshapen. They look at me with sad eyes, “Miss H, something happened.” (Although sometimes they call me “Magistra” because I’m also their Latin teacher by day.) I tell them to take a deep breath, that it can all be fixed. But they still get upset, still want to be perfect.
I am surprised at how difficult I find this class. They are all good girls. They all want to do well, to please me, to make something beautiful. But it’s hard for me to hear them, constantly trying to tell a better story, to shock the other girls with their own experiences, to show me that they are grown up.
I remember one of my mom’s friends telling me when I was little, “I had to grow up really quickly, Catherine. Don’t rush it. Be a kid as long as you can.”
I look at these girls and I want to say the same thing.
Just enjoy knitting. Enjoy chatting with each other on comfy pillows on the floor. Enjoy the fact that the hardest thing you have to do today is unravel an inch of uneven scarf.
But instead, I just smile and say, “It’s okay, I’ll fix it.”