When I was small my mother would sew with me. Simple patterns for sundresses, shorts, easy stuff. We'd cut out the patterns and I'd struggle through pinning them to the hideous fabric I wish I could say my mother had chosen for me. She would sit at her sewing machine and do a couple of seams, then invite me to come and finish off that particular piece. Without fail, I would sit down and the thread would break. Or the needle would come unthreaded. Or the fabric would jam in the hole-plate-thingy. It was all to easy for me to conclude that the sewing machine hated me. It knew I was coming, it sensed my fear, and gleefully it thwarted my every attempt to use it.
Kind of like parenting. Oh, I don't think that my children hate me; analogies always break down somewhere. But just when I think that the parenting machine is humming right along, the thread breaks. Usually my thread. We've established an order, a comfortable pace or method of doing things. Sure it's tedious to get some of those pins (guidelines) in place, but all in all we're doing alright. Until I get to the sewing machine. Or the math workbook. Or the room cleaning. And once again I've been thwarted.
Most of you know how much I love my four little ones. You may not know that I grew up in a similarly loving home, but I did. There are very few things that my husband and I have said we will not do like my parents. We have said, however, that we will not yell - as in significantly raise the volume of our voices - at our children. It is an intimidating and, ultimately, ineffective way of communicating, especially with someone so much smaller than you. I confess, this week, I have done a lot of yelling. I have often felt thwarted in my parenting, like something is out to get me.
In my encounters with the sewing machine as a child, I usually quit trying after what seemed like forever, but in reality was probably only a few minutes of struggle. I stopped sewing with my mother (I'm sorry about that, Mom) when I was about ten. It was too frustrating. I'm tempted to do that with parenting sometimes. It can be too frustrating. But I realized something today: I've started sewing again. Literally. My husband bought me a new sewing machine in the Fall. I read the manual (always good for me) and gave it a whirl. After a false alarm call to the company about a suspected missing part ("No, ma'am, that lever is inside the machine.), and several of my childhood mishaps, I'm sewing. I've actually started a quilt as one of my New Year's Resolutions. And I know that if I can take up something as eternally insignificant as sewing, certainly I can persevere in my parenting. It helps to read the manual and just give it a whirl. There will certainly be false alarms and regressions to my childhood, but I'll be parenting just the same.
I was reminded of something important and encouraging today in an article by Leslie Leyland Fields in Christianity Today. She writes about worrying less about being a successful parent and more about being a faithful one. She says,
"Parenting, like all tasks under the sun, is intended as an endeavor of love, risk, perseverance, and above all faith. It is faith rather than formula, grace rather than guarantees, steadfastness rather than success that bridges the gap between our own parenting efforts, and what, by God's grace, our children grow up to become."