This morning at 8 AM – a full two hours before I’m normally up and about – I was dressed and sipping coffee. My large, well-worn grass basket held fresh oranges, bagels with cream cheese, and water. The kids’ clothes were packed in there as well, two blankets stacked on the carseats, and the kids themselves enjoying their last few minutes of sleep before my mother arrived and we packed everything in her minivan for a trip.
I wish I didn’t have to drive out of town to purchase fabric – but I do (or order online). Last night in cutting a dress pattern I had mis-cut and squandered the bit of yardage I had remaining; I instantly knew I’d have to travel to Olympia (fifty minutes away) to buy 3/4 yard of Bemberg rayon. I knew my mother had an errand to run there as well so last night I called her and we made the date.
My mom and I find so much to talk about when we are together. Truthfully, I feel like I do more of the talking. Or rather, I tend to wind myself up in rants and she listens through and offers her own enthusiastic input. My mother is one of the handful of people in my life who supports, I mean really supports, almost everything I do as a parent, everything I think important – and so much of it different than many of my peers. She has stood by me while I made so many choices differently than she and my father: homebirthing, extended breastfeeding, quitting my job to be home full-time, home- and then unschooling, and – my latest and most exhilarating challenge – allowing my children their deserved freedoms out in the world. My choices as a parent say so much about who I am. My failures as a parent say so much about what I struggle with. Sometimes I forget what a wonderful thing it is I have such fierce support from my husband and such loving and constant acclaim and feedback from my mother. I am truly fortunate.
I love fabric shopping. Even if I am there for only a zipper or thread, it is a pure joy to meditate over the sundries and supplies of my craft. I often allow myself the purchase a few yards of something if it catches my fancy and I have the money: today this was a tomato-red knit that is destined to be something special for my husband. I have learned in the last few years that when on a limited spending plan it is best to relax a bit, pick the fabrics and patterns that appeal to one, collecting them here or there when the grocery budget permits (that said, my stash pile of fabric is very small – in fact, much smaller than many people I know who collect and buy fabric but rarely make anything with it) and trying not to think about the vast, overwhelming lovely choices out there had I more money and time. Time to sew comes eventually and there is a laundered and folded pile of wonderful fabric waiting to be transformed.
Fabric shopping with my mom is more fun still. She doesn’t sew very often, and she didn’t sew very often when I was raised in her household. However, she’d learned to sew as a young woman and the joy and confidence she gained always showed through. I tried sewing with her as a child and young adult; I mostly remember arguing with her and I hated so much of the process – like the pinning and cutting out, which seemed to take forever. But the craft either runs in my blood or her example was enough to pull me back into it – not to mention her gifts of fabrics and accoutrement. The year before I was married she bought me a Kenmore machine of my own; two years ago she upgraded my life with a new Juki. In fact, although at this point my tailoring and technical construction skills have surpassed hers, I have not grown into the satisfaction I observe in her when she sews for herself. I am still a perfectionist; I am still struggling with knowing how to voice myself in fabric and how to accept my body and learn to clothe it expressively.
Today, though, the acquisition of fabric, conversation, good coffee, and a stop at the barbecue restaurant served as wonderful ways to hide from a rainy day. Tonight the red knit is washed and folded; the patterns are tucked in with the others; the tracing medium carefully folded and pinned onto the cardboard bolt I store it. My studio awaits when I am ready for it.
Last night I groused about the weather as we drove to Sophie’s swim team. My daughter said to me, “I know you don’t like the rain, but April Showers bring May Flowers.” A beat passed as I considered sarcastically remarking it was only January, about a hundred more straight rainy nights to go, when she continued: “Do you know what May Flowers bring?” I said, “No, what’s that?” (without much interest) and she said, “Pilgrims.”
I rarely laugh at wordplay but she got me there.
I am not one to sew much. But I do remember those lovely afternoons with my mom. She – handing me something to pin together, me handing it back and hearing the whirr of the machine as it went together.
The bug never caught me, but I cherish those afternoons I spent with her.
oh god, that little daughter of yours is painfully clever. She set you up for that joke long before anyone could have seen it coming. I’m in awe.
Also, jealous that with all the flaws and rifts in your relationship with your mom, that you have this support and enthusiasm from her. I don’t speak to my mom one iota about my parenting or family life. I don’t seek advice from her or share my ideas and thoughts with her… I just know it would go terribly and would further reinforce, in her mind, what a lost soul I am. She is horrified by my choice to unschool and does not view me as a good mother.
My memories of sewing with my grandma as a child are similar to you with your mom. I hated having her fit things on me and pin them, always afraid I’d get poked even though I never remember actually getting poked my entire childhood. It always took SO LONG and there was so much detail. To this day using a machine frightens me, with it’s speed and precision. That’s why I do everything by hand, which is so limiting. I really want to make clothes for Silas and myself, but lack the confidence in my own skills and ability to learn.
This comment is all over the place, but your post stirred up a lot of random things.
K8, see that’s what’s funny, my memories of my mom sewing are positive, but my memories of the two of us sewing together are crabby! Still… I’m glad the craft runs in my family and that I carry it on.
Jasie, my relationship with my mom is hard-earned, on both our parts. So many times I see family members harden their hearts to one another or write one another off. From my perspective I’m glad I’m unwilling to do so… but yeah. It’s hard sometimes.
Hand-sewing has far more precision than machine-sewing! Haute couture garments are all sewn by hand. It takes longer, sure, but you can still make clothes. If you ever get interested in trying something let me know, and I’d be happy to help.
I’m making a dress for myself that involves a lot of handstitching on the rayon lining. BORRRRING. But it has to be done.
I need to get my butt in gear and start making myself clothes, then. You’ve talked me into it.
And yes… I know I’m pretty much writing her off, but right now that’s all I have the strength to do. I hope eventually that I can be the bigger person and figure my stuff out and let her back in and that it will somehow miraculously coincide with her WANTING back in.
Yes! Clothes! Let’s email back and forth. I know you can do it. Find some projects you’re interested and let me know what they are. Even something small is totally fine – I’ve often thought a small success is worth a lot more than an ambitious undertaking that goes awry.
So I say, as I curse at this goddamned rayon lining in my fitted sheath dress.
I’d like to blame it on hormones but you’ve brought both a tear to my eye and made me laugh out loud in quick succession. It feels good….
Yes! Laughing and crying, and I didn’t even have to use reference to/images of kittens or baby Jesus. Or Jesus-kittens.
Question(s):do adults try to stop your kids and question them about what they are doing and where you are if you aren’t right there? If so, what do your kids say, or do you suggest things for them to say?
Why I ask – I know your kids do a ton of stuff, and I figured you might have some experience you could share. There is a building in the town we live near that has an upper level of shops with stairs outside at each end, and Boots likes to go up, walk the outdoor hallway, and walk down. I wait down stairs (he’s five, he isn’t one or something) and this woman stopped him, made him come downstairs and was getting freaky about me not being with him, but directing it all at him, and when I said something she got all indignant about helping and child safety. What I said was polite, but here I am irritated that I don’t know what to do, you know how I get, and that is just one example. I know part of it is a product of where we live (adult called the police because 2 kids about 10 years old were at the park unattended while their mother was at the library and the library is right next to the park). oh, and in the story about the building, Boots did what the woman asked and answered her questions, and it didn’t help the situation, but didn’t hurt.
(part 1) Oh Shelley. How I could write pages and pages of semi-coherant rantings about that kind of thing.
First off, I think that some of the cultural aspects of where you live may be part of the problem – if I read you right about the place. For the first few years as a parent I was raising my kids in a place that liked kids if they were cute and well-dressed in Hanna Andersson and walked through the shops with their hands angelically in their laps and stuff. Like we’d walk into a chichi coffee shop for food and lunch and some singleton with a laptop at a four-top table would give us stink-eye for existing, or whatever. All I can say is the culture here is more accepting of kiddos, more live-and-let-live, and there are enough kids with minor to major Problem Behaviors that my (relatively! most of the time!) well-behaved-kids don’t stand out but rather look pretty confident and competent. Having a more kid-friendly area has helped me grow as a parent.
Confidence is key. Really feeling you know what you are doing is right for Boots is the first step. Until you get to that place, you are vulnerable to any stranger making you upset or whatever. I am a pretty confident Mama but I’ve had my bad moments – I think I blogged about one at Walmart recently where I went all crazy-eye shaky-voice at a couple employees. Still… my confidence has grown and my kids’ confidence has grown as well.
And that’s another part of the equation: the kiddo. Boots is pretty young to advocate for himself but, he’s just about the right age to be able to express himself as well as most grownups. I’ve explained to my kids that some grownups might correct them or be alarmed or ask, “Why aren’t you in school?” because let’s face it, I have Sophie biking or bussing across town during school hours. The thing is, the more we live our life this way the more my kids think it’s “normal” and are super-good at fielding questions and concerns. Also, I notice my kids are really articulate about saying what they can and can’t do (as in, are able to do) and they are almost always correct. Self-knowledge in the child will help in these situations. (see part 2 of comment)
I remember one incident in October: the kids rode the public transit, including a transfer, to the community college to have lunch with Ralph. I send them with quarters for bus fare and phone calls – but no cell phone. There is a grouchy Transit employee sometimes at the station who has snapped at my kids for – get this – not sitting completely still. With regards to this woman Nels told me he would: “stay out of her way but if she looks at [me], just look right back and smile.”
My kids had left my house at about 12:20, walking the two blocks to the bus station. About FOUR minutes after they must have got on their 12:35 bus, I got a call. It was from another bus passenger. She’d had my daughter dial my number into her phone, and she was calling to check that I was indeed OK with my kids out and about. I said, “Oh, thank you. My daughter’s experienced in riding the bus.” The woman immediately responded, “Oh yes, she’s very articulate and knows what she’s doing. I just wanted to call and ask you. I have daughters of my own.” I thanked her for her call, and she mentioned she was going to take the same transfer, and that she’d keep an eye on the kids (which I know the kids didn’t need). I thanked her again and said she was “sweet”.
So basically, I just thank people a lot. “Thanks for your concern – but he’s really fine,” or just “Thanks for your concern.” Remember you are raising Boots, you aren’t making everyone ELSE’S life easier. Remember too that many people live in knee-jerk fear reactions so they’re entitled to their opinions – but are they someone who really should be able to influence your parenting values right that instant? I think as you grow in confidence – in what works for you and Will in the place you live – Boots will emulate that confidence. My kids do and they’re out in public alone quite a bit, young as they are.
When I want to be more aggressive to a nosy-arse expressing “safety” concerns I have said, “It’s interesting you think you care more about this child than I do.” That shuts people up.
Seriously – I’d love to hear of any other interaction you have. I really dislike the treatment of shopkeeps who assume the worst, then when you show you are actually watching (and plan to pay for anything broken, of course!) act like it is THEY who are concerned for safety or whatever and that you’re some goddamned idiot – it’s a miracle you’ve kept the child alive to this day! Yeah. I actually have a medical-school level degree in my own kids, in terms of hard work and effort and shit.
Mostly when Boots is doing things without me standing two inches away people are fine, and he is fine. I know I have way too much of the trying to make people feel ok thing, and that doesn’t help the situation.
Will agrees with letting Boots do things on his own gradually, and we don’t always agree on what things are ok and what things aren’t, but over all it evens out somehow.
But yeah, people here who don’t have kids are mostly kid haters or annoyed by kids even if they don’t talk or move, and the people with kids are very concerned that all the kids are “safe” in the same way.
Boots goes in the kitchen of our favorite restaurant here, and it’s encouraged by the owners, but sometimes they have new staff who totally freak out about it. On a few occasions in a pretty mean way, and boots comes back feeling awful and stays away from them for a while, and then goes into the kitchen when they aren’t looking. And he is careful in kitchens since he spends hours sitting on the counter keeping me company while I cook, and he cooks some too. So I don’t worry about that too much. And most of the shopkeepers here know him, so usually those interactions go well.
I do worry about people calling the police or cps and having to get into that crap, and I worry about people like that lady yesterday who tell him he has to do something under their supervision (like go downstairs with her) because then he doesn’t return/end up where he is supposed to be, which makes it harder for me.
ANd yeah, he is young, and he’s on his own rather than being with a sibling, and that makes it hard, but it’s his life and he’s great.
I am still surprised that most of my friends don’t let their kids play outside at home unwatched. They all have yards, and many are fenced. Everyone is different.
I used to worry about CPS stuff until I researched my rights, which I highly recommend. There are lots of myths and falsehoods out there about kids’ safety. A friend the other day told me it wasn’t legal in Washington for a kid to be home alone until age 11. Guess what, she’s wrong; guess how I know, I looked it up a while back and I continue to keep tabs on that kind of thing.
I do think confident and competent kids forestall the nosy grownups to a certain extent. Insecure parents living in a fear state (sometimes) create insecure kids which nosy grownups will pounce on (to be fair, I am totally cool with people checking in – I think it’s awesome. Hatin’ shopkeeps, another story). Sophie and Nels are tall, direct, make eye contact, know what they’re doing. So for as much freedom as they get I’ve actually had very little grief.