I have a five year old daughter. She is an especially precocious and adventurous little thing that loves dressing up and goofing around. As you can imagine, she especially loves halloween.
During the summer, while visiting her grandparents in upstate NY, she planted a pumpkin seed in the hopes of having a nice big pumpkin for a jack-o-lantern come Halloween.
In mid-October, when my daughter’s birthday rolled around, her grandparents came to visit. Lo and behold, they had a beautiful pumpkin in tow, probably about ten inches in diameter–maybe the perfect size for a jack-o-lantern. Everyone, especially my daughter, was thrilled with the idea of carving up the pumpkin that she had planted. We parked the pumpkin on our kitchen counter and eagerly anticipated the opportunity.
A couple weeks later, on Halloween day, I called to my daughter, “Stella, today’s the day, we get to carve your pumpkin!”
She came running to the kitchen just in time to see me lift the pumpkin from the kitchen counter, moving it for the first time since we received it about two and a half weeks prior, as a rotted chunk of the pumpkin fell out of the bottom and a noxious juice began to spread everywhere..
“Oh no,” I said. “Oh, no, no, no, no…”
I talked to Stella about the pumpkin and why we couldn’t use it. I have to say that she took it pretty well, considering the anticipation leading up to this unfortunates situation. I knew she really had her heart set on it.
Not to be deterred, we hit the bricks, walking up to our local farmer’s market where she picked out a smaller replacement pumpkin. As we walked home, I was thinking to myself, ”ok, this is the second attempt at this jack-o-lantern–don’t screw it up!”
When we got home, Stella wanted to dive in and start cutting. But since this was already our second chance, I figured we should probably take a minute to make sure we knew what we were doing. That, and the fact that I wasn’t going to let my five year old handle the 7″ serrated knife that I was about to use to for the carving.
“Hey, Stella, how about this: while I start scooping out all the seeds and gunk from inside, why don’t you draw a picture of what you want the pumpkin to look like. We’ll carve it so it looks like the drawing.” She grabbed a pad of paper and started the deliberate process of drawing out a jack-o-lantern. When she was done, I took the chance to go over it with her, “ok, so you want triangle eyes and the teeth, are they squares or are they pointy?”
It’s funny, but that little sketch was the perfect guide for what to do with our pumpkin.
Oddly enough, it has also been a pretty good model for a lot of my own interactive projects.
At that point in time, the original pumpkin didn’t work out… so this was a sort of pivot in our pumpkin carving plans. There was a degree of pressure associated with the new approach due to limited resources–it was already Halloween. Even a simple sketch helps align the team and stakeholders around a singular vision and its impact.
But mostly, it helped avoid another pumpkin debacle. Another crisis averted with sketching!