Monday, November 24, 2008

As if I needed another reason to get therapy . . .

Blatantly obvious, I know, but isn’t it funny how parents give their children all sorts of traits? For instance, my oldest daughter looked so much like me when she was a baby that a complete stranger stopped me in the grocery store one day, peeked inside the baby carrier attached to the grocery cart, and exclaimed, “My goodness, does that child have a father?!”

Yes indeedy, she does, in fact, have a father.

Sometimes these traits are physical in nature, but sometimes we pass on talents and abilities to our children. Thankfully my girls have risen above my own inadequacies, conquering musical instruments and math with greater ease than I ever did.

As for me, I got a few traits from my parents. Some say I have my mother’s smile. Others think I have her hips. Whatever.

One thing I definitely did NOT get from my mother was what I call the “crafty gene.” From the time I was born, I can remember my mom stitching, sewing, and painting; seems she always had some sort of project going. Our kitchen table was a testament to her painting prowess. By the time I left for college the table was covered with little paint smudges and splotches, so much so that most of the time Mom kept a tablecloth on it so people couldn’t see how destroyed it was underneath. But I liked the table that way. It always reminded me of my mother’s many talents.

Unfortunately, those talents did not transfer to me. Not that we didn’t try. Oh boy, did we try.

When I was growing up, I was active in our local 4-H club. The Wauponsee Handy Anns, we were called—the name makes me chuckle still today. Even back then, when I thought of that name, I thought of the old doll, Raggedy Ann, and I imagined a group of girls, all dressed up with white pantaloons and striped socks and big red shoes sitting around discussing the latest method of boiling an egg to perfection.

Anyway, when I was in 4th grade I took sewing in 4-H because that’s what girls were supposed to do. Part of my final project, which I would then model at the 4-H fair, was a skirt. Elastic waist, simple hem. I remember that I chose purple fabric, which should have been my first clue that this project was going to be a disaster because I have never liked (and still do not like) the color purple.

Making that skirt nearly killed my mom and me and any hope we would have for a relationship in the future. I was so unskilled at the sewing machine that we very nearly came to blows, and I know that more than a few unseemly words were thrown around.

I eventually managed to turn out a final purple project. One that was crooked along the hem and too tight around the middle, but I modeled it at the fair, I did.

And then I took it off, wadded it up, threw it in the back of my closet, and never looked at it again.

By eighth grade I had decided that the whole “domestic goddess” thing was not in my future, so I took up cattle raising. That year I got a blue ribbon on my Herford heifer, Charlie (don’t ask why I gave a boy’s name to a heifer—I was naïve for a farm girl). I happily led Charlie around the show ring and felt more like myself than I ever did sitting behind a sewing machine. I should have learned my lesson right then and there.

Now, my older sister DID get the crafty gene. In fact, so crafty was she that she majored in home economics in college. Don’t even get me started on the guilt that induced in me. I don’t think there’s enough therapy to go around to cure me of that one.

I tried to keep up, I really tried. Over the years I tried cross stitching, embroidery, rug hooking. I don’t think I ever finished a project. As the projects piled up, so did the guilt. I knew that I would never measure up to my mom’s or my sister’s abilities.

And then one day, when my girls were young, as I was not enjoying and not finishing yet another craft project, it dawned on me. This is not who I am! I don’t enjoy sewing. I’m not good at it. I can’t seem to finish anything. It’s just not my area of giftedness, and by golly, that’s O.K.

I’m good at other things. Like reading. Now that’s a skill I’ve mastered and one I enjoy immensely. I tend to finish books, unlike all those craft projects that were stashed under my bed.

Unfortunately, a mom like me can’t really help her daughters become crafty if she isn’t crafty herself. I used to lay in bed at night worrying about this. How would my daughters discover their inner Martha Stewart if I couldn’t help them find her?

I shouldn’t have worried though, because in stepped Grandma. She taught my older two girls how to thread a sewing machine (something I still don’t do very well, mainly because I have fat fingers) and how to sew simple projects. Eventually, she taught them how to do larger sewing projects, like making a quilt. They are both great at it, and have turned out some beautiful work. Maggie tells me it’s her turn to learn now. (We’ll have to work on that, Mom.)

The point is, all is not lost! My girls might just have inherited the crafty gene. It just seems to have skipped a generation.

Or did it? Maybe it was in me all along. . . .

Stay tuned tomorrow to find out.


  1. My Mom sewed all of our clothes growing up. I can barely sew a button. My mom made every meal home made. My family is lucky if they get three cooked meals a weak. I am also finding that domesticity is NOT my gift, and I'm trying not to let that bother me. :) Good to know I'm not alone.

  2. Ah, Michelle, glad to have you joining the therapy group! :)

  3. You know...YOU were the one that got me hooked (so to speak) on making antique/reproduction samplers, don't you???

    I remember you showing me some of the patterns and partially-made projects at your apartment back in NAPERVILLE???? Long time ago, my friend.

    You have so many other abilities. . . you don't need to bother with crafting. BUT. . . you ought to see if any of your Martha Stewart wannabe daughters want to FINISH some of those projects. You might be surprised! :)