Monday, January 5, 2009

peeling skills

The spring before Miryam was born, when I was newly pregnant and pretty ill, Andy and I went to the Cummington Sheep & Woolcraft Fair to keep my spirits up. There is nothing like wool to make me a girl feel cheerful.

We spent some browsing around the stalls, picking out some roving, marveling and some of the beautiful handwoven shawls and watching a beautiful old woman spin yarn directly from the back of an Angora rabbit nestled on her lap. That must be the coziest of winter pursuits.

We wanted to sit and have some water so we found some seat in the bleachers in a barn and were apparently just in time for a 4H sheep showing competition. The children were to bring out their lamb that they had been raising, and show it off. One specific competitions included the children being dressed in some bit of clothing they made themselves that was made from wool.

We marveled at how confidently these 4-12 year olds were dealing with these boisterous lambs. They seemed to have a much deeper sense of responsibility than I had ever seen in other children. This was a huge step up from the proverbial "well if you want a puppy you know you have to feed and walk it, right?" discussion. These were children who were truly responsible for the care of a living creature. We walked through the barns were the animals were kept before and after the competitions and heard the talking to their animals, tidying up their wool with hand sheers and being very lovingly stern when the lambs got a bit out of hand.

Andy and I talked a lot that day, and since then, about our desire to raise children with real skills. I know that so much of my adult life has been learning skills that, in another time, children would already know. It seems that so many "jobs" out there are a variation of "pushing papers" and our abilities to actually make or do anything are fewer and farther between. I felt that gap in my own life and I think that may be a part of the "crafting revolution". The desire to use our hands to create something. To use skill.

Well Miryam is 4 now, and she has no livestock skills yet (but watch this space for information about some chickens in our future) but she does a great job with a veggie peeler. She can also make quick work of slicing a pound of mushrooms for pizza with a paring knife. I have been trying to raise a child who is capable and have been rewarded by seeing how proud she is when she acquires a new skill. And is that pure and honest pride that comes not as a result of hearing praise but from recognizing your own growing abilities. And that is the true bounty that I wish for my children.