Pattern Making in Parenting

 I have been sewing a lot lately. It is a feel good activity for me with the added bonus of a new, finished something at the end. While I have known how to sew for the large majority of my life, sewing is one of those wonderful activities for which there is always more to learn, whether it be a new construction technique or a new method or a new tool. There is always another thing out there that I didn't yet learn or another product that I haven't yet tried to make. This is a big reason why I never really tire of the act of sewing. I may get tired of making a particular thing (um, hi, face masks...I'm looking at you) but, pick a new goal and it's like a totally fresh game. I love that about sewing.

Sewing is also a little bit like life. 

When we're born into the world we don't know how to do life but here we are and we just begin with the very first thing: breath. And then we just keep going forward from there. Learning as we go. There is always something new to learn. We'll never reach the point where we know it all. And just like with sewing, when we make mistakes or have awful things happen, we have to pick it all apart and then stitch our life back together. Iron out those wrinkles. Stitch those lessons into permanency.

It's the same with parenting too.

I didn't know anything about parenting before I had kids (though I certainly thought I did.) My babies were born and we just followed the pattern all the parents before us had laid out: feed, clothe, love, repeat. 

Patterns shows us how to put a diaper on. They show us how to hold floppy baby heads. Whenever something comes up that we don't know how to do, we consult a pattern (a friend, a book, or another mom, etc.) Sometimes, when we can't find a pattern, we get to improvise. We draft up a completely new pattern and it gets added to the library for other parents to draw upon.

Our babies are not really ours to keep though. They will eventually grow up. I started telling myself right away and repeating to myself often after my babies were born: They will leave you someday. It has been a running mantra in my head since the very beginning of my parenting journey.

The last thing I want is to fall all the way in, forgetting the facts, ignoring reality, until the very last moment when the kids are no longer kids and they leave, little bits at first, eventually more permanently. I did not want to find myself there, feeling emotionally unprepared.

These people were trusted to my care only for the time being, nothing more. There weren't any future guarantees given. These children are just as likely to grow up, leave home and never look back as they are to refuse to ever leave in the first place. There is no way to predict what it will be. The job I've done as a parent might play into what they decide in the future but so too does their perception of the job I do as a parent. 

I don't have any control over that.

My daughter is a senior in High School starting in just a few short weeks. Somehow more than a decade passed since the first time I sent her off to school. And despite the chronic reminder I've given to myself that she will leave, I still don't really feel ready. For the past 17 years we've been together more often than not, sewing our lives together. Yet one calendar year from now, she will just be gone. She will be somewhere out there weaving and sewing her own threads, creating her own life. 

And my edges will feel raw and incomplete, fraying on the sides. 

I am sure there is a pattern out there for how to detach from your child as they move off to the next part of their lives. Generations of mothers have come before me and written down in the fibers of their hearts each step of this process. And normally I like to consult the pattern, get a sense of where I am going, what is ahead, even if I plan to improvise. But right now, more than anything, I just want to stop cutting at the cloth we've sewn together and instead, wrap the two of us up inside this thing we've made and just sit the way we have for so long, sharing a space and being together, while we still have time. 

I know she has to go. And I know she will be fine, no matter where life leads her. 

I will be fine too. 

It's just that sometimes it feels so daunting to modify a pattern.


This post was inspired by a monthly theme from illuminate, a writing community created by The Kindred Voice

Read more on this month's theme, trust, written by other illuminate members:

My Superhero in the Sky by Sarah Hartley
the journal. by Eunice Brownlee
In How We Trust by Liz Russell


  1. This: "And just like with sewing, when we make mistakes or have awful things happen, we have to pick it all apart and then stitch our life back together. Iron out those wrinkles. Stitch those lessons into permanency."

    So powerful. This story reminds me of How to Make an American Quilt - where they talk about how we may all be individual squares, but we get stitched together to make something so much more beautiful.

    1. Ohhh, I love that Eunice! Thanks for sharing. I will have to check that out.

  2. What a beautiful metaphor for parenting and family and life. Thank you, Laci.


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