7 ways parenting is like knitting

Two of my creations pose together. As seems quite typical, only my firstborn ended up with an heirloom handknit blanket.

I have something exciting to share with you all: I feel as if I have the time and brain cells to pick up my knitting projects again. Long before I blogged about breastfeeding, I blogged about knitting. Surprise, surprise—this fell by the wayside after I had my first baby in 2007. My Ravelry project list hasn’t seen much action in years, either. It could be overly optimistic to say that my stitching life will be renewed, but I did realize some things while finishing up some armwarmers recently.

Parenting, as it turns out, is a lot like knitting*.

1. There’s a steep learning curve.

You probably won’t learn to knit well on the first attempt, or even the second. It may take years before you feel you’ve mastered the craft enough to watch a movie while stitching up a scarf or have the courage to try fair isle. You’ll screw up a lot and feel you’re a screw-up a lot.

Does that sound familiar? It takes weeks of round-the-clock feedings to feel you’ve mastered breastfeeding and a lifetime to think you’re even close to figuring out parenting. For some, it may come easier than it does for others. Eventually, for most of us, we feel like we’re beginning to get it. (But see #5 below.)

2. Patience is essential.

I came across an article recently about reaching out to your authentic self and practicing self-care or some such that I felt was quite lovely, until I read a line about how the author tried knitting twice and decided she did not have the patience for it. She is not a knitting person, she declared! Most people are not born with the level of patience that knitting requires; the practice creates the patience. None of us are born “knitting people.”

It is similar with parenting. You don’t know what patience truly means until you’re biting back pleas for your “me do it!” toddler to hurry up when he’s putting on his shoes, and you feel like losing your patience might damage his poor psyche forever. But it gets easier. You learn to appreciate your little one’s independence, or realize the world will not end if you’re late (again). The things you thought you’d never be able to do become doable simply because you’ve done them so many times and it becomes second nature.

3. The end product is nice, but the process is, too.

One point of discussion between knitters is if you are a “process” person or a “product” person. Process people enjoy the act of knitting more than the end result. Product people deal with the process for the reward at the end. I feel like I’m right smack in the middle of the two, and, in my opinion, it’s a nice, balanced place to be.

Parenting is a long game, and holding out for the end product is probably going to lead to a lot of frustration. Plus, it’s not exactly fair to your progeny to raise them with the hopes that they’ll ultimately be a benefit to you. There’s lots to be said about living in the moment and enjoying the journey and not just eyeing the destination, and other overdone tropes. They’re overdone because they’re true. Stop and smell the roses! And maybe your eventual 35-year-old will bring you some for your birthday, too.

Long ago and far away, I’d do things like knit tiny Joey Ramone dolls for my husband. This doll now lives in a toy box with My Little Ponies. Sorry, Joey.

4. You’ll pick up little tricks along the way.

Drop a stitch? No problem; you can knit it back up.** Knitting entrelac? Learn to knit backwards to save yourself some turning back and forth. Some cast-ons are stretchier, and certain bind-offs will look best with ribbing. The possibilities for learning tricks that make your life easier are endless when we’re talking fiber arts.

I keep coming up with tricks that make parenting just a little bit easier. (Though I would be lying if I said I didn’t learn the hard way, and after a long while of learning the hard way.) My current go-to is to never disclose plans unless absolutely necessary; if they change and you’ve kept silent, your children will be none the wiser and you’ll save yourself and your ears some trouble. My other favorites: Make as many snacks as you have children, even if only one is hungry. Learn who will freak out if the cup is blue instead of purple and inform them ahead of time so they can adjust expectations. Only allow them the options you’re willing to follow through with.

5. Every project is different, and you never know what might trip up even the most experienced of us.

You can use the same yarn for two different projects and have very different experiences. There are so many variables involved—such as needle size, knitting tension, fiber content—that you can’t necessarily expect the same results even with similar ingredients involved. The same is true for children: Each one is unique, and we as parents are shaped into different people along the way, as well. We get older and wiser, while maybe losing our faculties a bit for some time and regaining them (or so I’ve heard) as our children get a little older.

Something that has made me feel better as a parent is knowing that none of us have any clue, really. We’re all winging it. It’s chaos with intermittent sensations of feeling like you’ve got this.  Even the parents you admire have their bad days and periods of self-doubt.

6. It takes some guts to take that first step, and you’ll need support along the way.

Learning a new skill can be intimidating. What supplies do you need? What’s the best way to learn the basics? Should you take a class? (When it comes to breastfeeding, please do!) We each learn and live differently, so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Stepping out of your comfort zone to learn something new, meet new people (like other parents or, you know, a brand-new human being that you are entirely responsible for raising into a functioning adult), and take a chance that you might not do it perfectly requires guts. You will screw up sometimes, but—take heart—we all do. Finding a circle of friends or trusted professional for support can make a world of difference.

I know I mentioned Ravelry but I’ll do it again: If you are a knitter, crocheter, or spinner, and have not signed up for an account yet, run, do not walk, and join the social media network for fiber artists. You want support? Ravelry has it in spades. There is even a group for people who like to untangle yarn.

Need parent friends? Ask around for suggestions. See if there’s a MOMS Club in your area. There are also area groups run by Attachment Parenting International leaders and those with a crunchier bent might find their people through Holistic Moms Network.

7. Your tea has probably gone cold.

Whether it’s purls or poop, your attention will be pulled elsewhere. Get used to reheating your hot beverage over and over and over. Or learn to love it at room temperature.

*I’ll bet this applies to other hobbies as well. Just work with me here.

**My best friend’s response to hearing about the topic of this post: “WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DROP ONE?!!” Thankfully, dropped babies happen much, much less frequently than dropped stitches. But here’s how you deal with—and prevent—these sorts of accidents.

Edit: How could I forget the biggest way parenting is like knitting? Both can be really, really expensive!