Stitch by Stitch

November 27th, 2012 Posted by Susan's Musings 11 comments


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 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.


Devorah says:

Uh oh. I call my kids “my monsters” all the time. But I say it in an endearing way (I hope) 🙂

James says:

Mrs. Lapin, in attaching derogatory names to her children, your friend may not even be thinking consciously. She may be merely replaying little snippets of audio tape she heard during her life. Parenting does have its irritations. One wonders what her mother called her? Such tapes might have been learned from parents, from teachers, from drill sergeants, from supervisors, from capos. When I am treated in a manner insulting, belittling or degrading, do I replicate such behavior and pass it on, thus creating and enshrining a negative legacy for future generations?
Attitude is everything. Better than absorbing such influences is deflecting them. The key is to realize the danger of absorbing and internalizing such treatment, for such baggage can indeed be imparted to others. Every day we face tiny yet critical cusps of responsibility. We cannot control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond, and we can control what we hand forward to others. Like the Rabbi might say, we can consciously replace the negative tapes with positive ones.
My brother and I each have a quilt sewn together from brightly colored scraps of motley fabric by my father’s mother during countless hours of labor inestimable. This labor of love is an invaluable generational heirloom, and it keeps us warm to this day.

Teresa Rex says:

Susan, I totally agree. I have always tried to be mindful about how I treat my children and how I speak to them. Children are a gift from God and He has entrusted us to raise them.

Kristy says:

I loved your comment “unlike a quilt, stitches of a child’s soul and character aren’t easily removed and re-sewn.” So True! I have 3 youngn’s (actually they are 8, 13, & 15!) and I feel the same way as you. I think it is so sad when parents talk so negativly to their children. I also am saddened at the parents that can not stand the children on Holiday break from school and just wish school would start back up again because they are “driving them crazy!” I homeschool mine and could not think of them being away from me for so many hours each day! I prayed for our children and God gave them to us,so I want to be there to raise and guide them with my faith and values! Thank you Mrs. Lappin for your Musings! I enjoy them greatly each week! We enjoyed seeing ya’ll at New Begginings in Dallas.

Robert says:

I am sure the woman at the quilting bee does indeed pass on her insults to her children. Mine did. I grew up in an environment of condemnation but luckily I married a godly woman who did not let me pass these traits down to my own children. It took me 55 years to finally say “no more” and cut off direct communication with my parents in an effort to cleanse myself of this dark spirit. It has been three years and my wife and grown children can see a big difference in my behavior.
I still have a problem with the “honor my father and mother” commandment, maybe your husband can elaborate on that issue some day. In the meantime I focus on honoring my true Father in heaven.

Gail says:

You are honoring them in a sense. By removing yourself from their environment, you can now look at them as they are. Humans that are flawed like everyone else, and you can pray for them.
I went through a similar situation. The distance allowed to me really look at them, not just as parents, but people.

Gail says:

But it is not “endearing” What does the word monster bring to mind? That is what you are calling them.

Michele McFie says:

So true: Sadly, unlike a quilt, stitches of a child’s soul and character aren’t easily removed and re-sewn.

Karla says:

Dear Susan, I learned quilting from my mother-in-law. But I married her son, not knowing the anger and rage, which must have been the enviroment while raising her 8 children, with one year off between the first 4 and last four. I have stayed married for 22 years. My children who have distanced their selves from their alcoholic father and myself. My children (3) want me to leave him and start my life over, free from the emotional abuse. But I have a fear, not of him, but of starting over at 49 years old.
Please do not let the quilting group stop your desire to quilt. I have found so much peace of mind while creating a top. And I have found that not every group is for me. Most times I just create alone, in my room. Each stitch and piece, done with love and hope that those who recieve the finished quilt, will know the joy and happiness making them was for me. My quilting was my sanity,in this sad home.

I always appreciate everyone’s thoughts. I would like to clarify that there is a huge spectrum from being a very thoughtful parent (and making good decisions based on that thoughtfulness) and being abusive. I personally think that language matters a great deal, but I wasn’t suggesting that my classmate’s verbal mistakes (IMO) meant that I thought she was an abusive mother.
I am currently working on a customized challah cover in counted cross stitch for my youngest daughter and her husband. After that, I do want to spend time learning to quilt. The class did give me some skills that I simply wasn’t picking up from books or videos.

Jean says:

Dear Mrs. Lapin,
As usual we are on the same page. Everywhere,I hear mothers and fathers saying hurtful things to and in front of their children. Even the youngest ones can pick up on the tone of voice of the parent. Where are the filters? Children say the most disrespectful things to their parents. Hmmmmmmmmmm, where did they learn it?

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