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 quilt patterns.
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 at a class teaching hand quilting skills at a local sewing store. 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 an abundance of 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.