Knitting for Dummies, by Pam Allen, Tracy Barr, and Shannon Okey, is my lifeline! It breaks down knitting to its simplest - keeping me out of trouble when that project has presented a new challenge. It is also the perfect accompaniment and teacher in learning new skills and tricks of the trade. What would I do without it? While not every problem in life or in parenting is as easily solved as the challenges we face in knitting, through this craft, I have managed to learn a lot about myself as a human being and as a parent. I hope I can share these experiences with you, and in turn, we can spend some time together learning from each other...

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Black & White

 Nothing is ever black or white.

At the beginning of my career, I learned about a customer service model which presented three points of view in any conversation:  (1) the way the customer sees the situation, (2) the way you see the same situation, and (3) the way it really is.  Understanding this model is important as it allows us to exercise its point:  bring one and two closer together to arrive at three... the way it is. 

Later on and after teaching this principle for years, I began to manage, and I learned that in managing people, the model still applied.  This time, it was about how a manager's direct reports sees a situation (1), how the manager sees it (2), and the way it really is.  Unlike the customer service scenario, however, I also learned that a manager has more data which oftentimes helps to determine whether or not an employee is meeting expectation, sure.  Nonetheless, the point remains the same:  bring the manager and the employee's points of view closer together to clearly outline the way it really is.  And we do that by ensuring that our employees are clear on expectations and continuously receive feedback to aide their growth.  (Sounds like parenting, eh?)  Bringing one and two closer together gets us to execution.  (And how "managerial" is that?!) 

To date as a manager, I have faced a lot of... interesting... situations with my direct reports, and I have learned a lot from each of them.  As I matured in my career, I started working with a manager who reminded me over and over that nothing was ever black or white, but that the answer always lied somewhere in the gray.  This was not very different than the aforementioned model. But...  it did bring up an interesting paradigm that needs pondering...

Is there anything that is truly black or white?  Is there?  Or are we to always seek all pertinent facts before rendering a decision?  Isn't that what our legal system does/is supposed to do?

As I have shared, I was raised with the values of the Catholic church.  At the core, one can find the ten commandments.  Let's start with one:  Thou shall not kill.  But what if one kills another in self-defense?  Is the issue still black and white or do we understand it and excuse it?  All of a sudden, we have gone from black to... gray? 

Thou shall not steal.  I have yet to hear anyone put Robin Hood down.  (n.b., I am not an advocate for stealing from the rich to give to the poor.  I am just wondering why we hold a different lens to this...) 

And then, there are the Church's "rules" on my sexual orientation.  Does God (the One with whom I grew up and follow today) love me less for living honestly and integrally?  Is my sexual orientation a black and white issue?

On parenting...

Needless to say, the concept of living in the gray is paramount to parenting - especially as these babies of ours get older and older...  P is in the last six months of his 11th year.  This is an important point to make in development as I learned from a teacher of his a while back.  He is already a tween and I am beginning to see signs (both beautiful and tough ones) of what the teenage years will bring.

Earlier this month, we had "issues" with losing something important for school.  P chose to react very "victim-like", and it probably did not help that I was not very sympathetic about it.  Part of me just wanted him to look at the situation logically and make plans for what would happen if we could not find the missing piece:  a memory stick with his work in it.  Unlike other times when he would get stuck on his first reaction, he re-responded quickly to re-do his work.  I was amazed that he could come up with this work so very quickly - for anyone who knows him, this has been uncharacteristic of most of his academic life: working fast and precisely. 

Hmmm... what was going on with him?  P is a kid of extremes.  Most kids are, I have noticed.  Could he have gone from "white" to "black" overnight?  Had some switch flipped?  Was it the "last six months" of his 11th year?

After both of us got some rest, the next morning, I sat with him right before breakfast and told him I wanted to talk about what had happened the day before.  But before I could say anything else, P exclaimed, "I know what I'm going to do about my work."  And he proceeded to explain his entire plan.  Few-to-no clarifying questions remained.  He even explained his reactions.  So, I had to pause to celebrate his thinking.  At the same time, however, I wondered... what had happened to my child?  I like it, but what happened?

I thought about it throughout the entire day reflecting on the idea that nothing is either black or white but most often (maybe always?) gray, somewhere in the middle where my son and I had met.  Could I have encouraged him to be more forthcoming during the work he was doing the night before instead of being so "black" to his "white"?  Every day, there is a lesson in parenting.  And every day, I'm reminded that gray is the color of the way.

On paradise...

Most recently, I have been bombarded with conversations and images on things that appear to deviate from the "normal".  (What is "normal" anyway?)  Rapidly, I have had to do checks to ensure that I am not passing judgment.  Remaining unjudgemental is important to me.  In these images (like the ones I present to you today), I wonder if I know the entire story.  I wonder if I am putting too much of who I am and not enough of what the other point of view is saying.  How can I remain un-judgemental in the process of seeing something?  It is not that I was raised in that accepting of an environment; it is that as someone who has often been judged, I do not ever want to go there for others.  And I have always known that as I parent, I want to raise a child who is tolerant, less judgemental than most of us, and accepting.  In there, I hope he finds his paradise, and in there, I hope he finds love.

In the beginning...

As we start turning the corner toward the conclusion of Adam and Eve in knitwear, this arc we started exploring a year ago, I knew that I wanted to make a piece of knitwear inspired by something less traditional. It was my friend, Todd B., who introduced me to the pondering of black v. white.  And so, I wanted to push myself to see if I could see things in a different manner.

This neck cuff is inspired by the boot covers I made earlier, mixed in with the tradition of cables and the warmth of beautiful yarn, and a little S&M for seasoning.  Believe it or not, the seasoning came from my last trip to a Burberry (sigh!) store in Chicago...

It is a simple rectangle.  It starts with a 2x1 ribbing which helped secure the fasteners.  From there, the neck warmer is made up of five rows of cable alternating the rows where the cable twists.  At first, the twists felt somewhat weird just like the ENTIRE idea behind it.  However, as the knitting continued, the soft waves reveiled themselves.  Again, this is true of thoughts and of my knitting this month.

I love the end look of this piece.  Hopefully, in it, you see the soft, the hard, the edgy and the hmmm, what is that?

PS  This month, P ended up getting braces.  When he was asked what color he wanted his rubber bands to be, he chose... black!  Funny, isn't it?  :)e-

A special thanks to my dear friend, Todd B., who has been watching and reading for this entire year.  Todd is supportive and encouraging, and in all of that, my family and I feel his love.  Thank you, Todd!  ;)e-