Quilting is not in my blood. I possess no antique quilts
handed down through the generations nor do I have fond memories of my mother
and aunts socializing as they pieced together a quilt top. Nonetheless, I have
been hanging out in the fabric store, reading quilting magazines and dreaming about
My interest was piqued by a fictional series based around a
group of quilters. The books are just what I sometimes seek: enjoyable, non-violent,
non-offensive reads that don’t engage me enough to keep me up too late at night.
Perhaps knowing that my husband’s abiding passion for sailing was triggered by
reading a series of children’s books while growing up in his land-locked
hometown should have served as a warning to me, but it didn’t.
All this explains how I found myself playing hooky from work
a few weeks ago, attending a hand quilting class. In addition to a quilting lesson, I received a
lesson about life.
Like most people, I surround myself with friends who make my
life happier and more fulfilling. Heading into the class, I thought my budding
hobby might provide a source of new friends, bonding over a shared interest. In
reality, one woman’s personality dominated the class chitchat, and her comments
left me with no interest in pursuing a relationship.
What happened? More than once during the class, her cell
phone rang. Each time she looked around the room, grimaced and said, “It’s the
little wretches again.” After dealing with whatever child was calling, she
loudly complained at how needy, incompetent and time-consuming her children
were. It was most uncomfortable.
I have read parenting advice, on occasion, that warns
against calling children stupid, lazy or other negative names. Such sage guidance
usually has me rolling my eyes. Who in the world, I think, needs to be told
that? My mother certainly never spoke to me in such a derogatory tone. Yet,
here, sitting next to me, was a woman who clearly needed such direction.
My quilting acquaintance probably loves her children and
puts time, money and effort into providing for their needs. Maybe she doesn’t
call them wretches to their faces or within their hearing, though I think it
unlikely. When we accustom ourselves to certain language, we rarely can confine
it to specific circumstances. She may even think she is being funny. How mistaken.
Aside from being unpleasant, her behavior seemed
anachronistic to me. Parents today are far more likely to lavish too much
praise on their children rather than insults. Yet the challenge of intentional, thoughtful parenting
remains. We still have to think through the consequences of our
interactions rather than reacting to our children and to situations. Whether it
is exploding in anger or surrendering authority to a tiny despot (of one’s
creation); whether it is abdicating parental responsibility and following
whatever the crowd is doing or encasing one’s habits in concrete and exhibiting
no flexibility whatsoever, it is easier to parent poorly than to parent well. Sadly, unlike a quilt, stitches of a child’s
soul and character aren’t easily removed and re-sewn.