My four year old nephew Hank is four and a half, and he’s starting to show an interest in knitting. Not just having knitted stuff, but actual knitting. Hank has realized that knitting is transformative. You take yarn, wave sticks about, make motions with your hands and presto-chango (ok. That makes it sound fast. Sorry) you have something else. To his four-year old mind that makes knitting pretty interesting. Naturally, some of the details of this transformative process are lost on him. A perfect example is the following:
Hank: Auntie Steppie (I love that he says Steppie. I really, really hate when people call me Stephie, but Steppie get’s me.) before I come back to your house, could you take this Knittening and make me a pink hat?
The knittening in question, (Gotta say….the use of “knittening” for yarn? Darned cute. I understand that little children are constructed by mother nature for maximum cuteness, and that it is a manipulative thing, designed to keep us feeding them and sheltering them instead of leaving the sleep-depriving sticky little parasites in the forest somewhere, but “knittening”? Even the most cynical of mothers has to fall for that. It’s like the smell of a new babies head. I know it’s pheromones designed to entice me to hold a baby close for warmth….but it’s all I can do not to sniff other peoples infants.)
the knittening for the pink hat, is this.
Get it? Transformative indeed. Not only will the magic act of knittening turn the yarn into a hat, but it can change it into a PINK hat. Clearly the more subtle nuances of knittening are lost on my little dude. Nevertheless, he is enchanted, and he is almost ready to knit.
My paternal grandmother was not what would traditionally be considered “kind”. Fine. She wasn’t what would really be untraditionally considered “kind” either. It’s not that she was mean or a bad person or anything like that, it’s just that she was very, very joyless and conservative and….pretty much the opposite of everything that I have ever been for even one moment of my life. She and I wouldn’t agree on vegetables or little kids or what grass was for or anything. Not one single atom of family similarity between us. I don’t look like her, I don’t think like her and I still believe that she held it against me that I wasn’t one of those nifty “grandsons” that you hear so much about. The fact that we shared some sort of DNA was boggling to both of us. Neither she nor I would have been shocked if a mobile genetics testing lab had swooped down into her Willowdale backyard, separated us with electric cattle prods and explained that they couldn’t let the charade go on for one second longer.
Except for one thing. She was a professional knitter. Nana taught me to knit when I was four, right after I learned to read. It was her belief that (and I quote) “If you can do something as hard as read, you can do something as simple as knit.”
(Just so you know? The irony that 30 years later virtually every moment of my life is focussed on the one thing this most unlike-able of women actually loved doing is not lost on me. )
She was right. I mean, think about it. Being able to code and encode 26 letters into a myriad of ever-developing complex word structures that have a variety of pronunciations and meanings ..VS.. learning two stitches, knit and purl. C’mon. The old bat My grandmother was right.
My girls leaned to knit when they could read and now that Hank is thinking about reading, I’m coming up with a plan. The key is going to be keeping his interest high. I must keep him thinking that knitting is so cool that I’m virtually certain that Spiderman knits. (Hello…where do you think the webs come from?) So far, my approach has been to knit him really, really cool things therefore leaving him with the desire to produce said cool objects himself. It’s not a bad plan, though the four-year old threshold for coolness is elusive and mysterious. Four year olds are fickle, conniving, vacillating and as mercurial as the wind. Emotional investments in knitted objects for the very young is an enormous mistake (I once had a pair of Mouse mittens briefly rejected because one of the mice – not both, ONE of the mice looked angry) and one must only take the sure things, and take them lightly. One false move with a Blues Clues sweater and the whole thing could be in the crapper.
Therefore, in the interest of creating a knitter…I ask you to help me find the “sure thing”, the wave of certainty, the vagrant, elusive, never-say-die, cool factor for a four year old boy and tell me…..
How would you make this Knittening into Spiderman mittens?