Stitch by Stitch

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.

6 thoughts on “Stitch by Stitch”

  1. Linda Marie Jennings

    Oh Susan! I am enough of a quilter to make up for un interest. My mom never sewed and she had kept a box for her sisters. I had always stitched doll clothes baby blankets when I was a kid. Embroidery on table scarves were supposed to show off your homemaker talents for a would be hubby I guess? I had a godmother who saw what she called a natural talent and she let me go through her button box. That was like finding gold for me. Back in the not so long ago days, button boxes were like the heart of the woman who mended her family’s clothes. There were garter clips, lace snips, prayer cards & a rainbow of threads. And heavy thread for socks & gloves. A matchbook for sharpening needles or a ragged fingernail. I am 58 years old now and am just realizing over the past 8 years or so that “not everybody sews” & it isn’t always a god given talent. God has been working with me big time on realizing what a gift I give to people and that the gift He gave me for mending people’s things & having n’my little sewing shop’ has kept 2 kids in clothes , paid for nice reliable used cars & bought us a nice home debt free from th beginning! A lot of the things I just took in stride for being ‘the sewing lady’ on the street. My fav memory was a neighbor oy that came by after school with a big tear in his jacket. He schmoozed me & said that he tore it in a tree and his mom would skin him if she saw the new coat ripped. He followed me upstairs & hung over my big sewing table telling me how neat all my work stuff is etc. My house was the place for the kids to play ball in the yard or the sleepovers too. I stitched him all up and sent him on his way. That became the start of a better ‘mom friendship” with his mom, also a Jewish Susan. She asked him why he was late & he gave her some story about visiting miss Linda on the way etc. We ALL know our kids and she knew that her son never did anything without a motive….NOT a REASON a motive. He had been diagnosed with ADHD back in the 1980’s & she was being fierce about him NOT being medicated & more teacher involvement etc. She told him they were coming here to thank me for letting him hang out etc. Between their house & ours he started bawling that he took the way home through the railroad yard with the old pond for the steam engines & tore up his coat etc & he didn’t want trouble for going there since it’s been a railroad dump ground for decades. I never charged for children’s sewing either in 30 yrs. Kids out grow & rip their stuff & bust their zippers. I have a giant tackle box of zipper parts & usually tell people if they can find the match before I pull off the stopper ends, they win a free zipper stop & get to watch “My ancient Chinese Secret” …. as long as they don’t tell anyone about my zipper box <3

    1. I love your story, Linda. I do hope you have read the Grandma Attic series where most stories start with a little girl going through her grandmother’s button box and picking something up that leads to a story from the “olden days” when her grandmother was a little girl.
      Sounds like you are a treasure to your neighborhood.

  2. Suzanne Jean Wilkins

    Thank you for being quite clear and bold. Your articles are so old fashioned and biblical in wisdom. I believe God got it right in how we are to parent, grandparent, be a spouse, a woman and simply human in this world. I treasure these reminders. I have three daughter-n-loves, a former daughter-in-love and 7 granddaughters, I receive all the help and godly wisdom I can to accurately lead, team and guide them. Thank you again.

    1. Suzanne, I appreciate your kind words. In terms of reaching younger people such as your granddaughters, I prefer to think of my articles as timeless rather than old-fashioned. I would not like to exchange my air-conditioner for an old-fashioned method of putting wet cloths in the window to evaporate or using a handheld fan, but ideas that are true are as valid now as they always were.

  3. Herein lies one major influence in my decision to begin homeschooling. While I may not remember exact words uttered, I remember the gist of the moment. I was in my kid’s local school building and while lingering near a doorway, then attempting to enter a classroom, after hours, one school staff member changed her facial expression from disdain to oh, it’s actually a parent and motioned me to enter.
    Because of comments or attitudes shared with other present adults, I knew who the disdain was for. Could be wrong, but there were other times I observed the interaction towards the young ones, such as at lunchtime in the cafeteria.
    What might the internal thoughts and feelings then be of these influenceable children?

    1. Deanna, paying attention to our words, facial expressions and body language is something all responsible adults need to do around children.

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