Threading the Needle

This evening I was in C’s room with my sewing box. She has a pile of clothes that have needed to be mended for awhile, and since I was off work today because of the snow we got last night, I figured today was the day that I would finally get to this task.

Well, we needed to make a snow turtle first. We called him Studs Turtle.

Well, we needed to make a snow turtle first. We called him Studs Turtle.

C sat next to me while I was patching holes and darning socks. She kept calling the thread “fabric softener,” a logical confusion, if you ask me. She also insisted that the pack of needles was a comb, and it was difficult to convince her otherwise. It’s endlessly interesting for me to have some indication of how her mind works.

I pulled each spool of thread out of the box, measured a length and snipped it with the scissors, and then carefully inserted the thread through the eye of the needle, knotting it at the end. Something about this motion intrigued C more than usual. She watched with rapt attention as I mended her pants, and then she announced that she needed to sew too.

I watched her as she removed a spool of thread from the box. “This one is just right,” she’d declare, and then she would unspool a length just as I had done.

Finally, she looked at me very seriously: “Mommy, I need you to hold dis thread so I can cut it so I can sew.” I put my own sewing down and held her spool while she cut the length of thread with the scissors. She then set the cut length down next to her.

We repeated this action about 25 times.

Dis is sewing. I’m sewing. 

The entire time this was happening, I was struck with how seriously she took herself. Being a few weeks shy of three, she takes a lot seriously, but her convicted innocence was more profound than usual during this sewing episode.

Was she sewing? No, she was cutting thread. That’s all. She wasn’t creating or mending.

But did she believe that she was sewing? Yes, with her whole heart and her whole mind.

While she didn’t create anything today and while what she was doing can’t be called “sewing”, she was taking part in the beautiful ritual of learning. I didn’t correct her when she repeated, “I’m sewing. This is sewing.” One of the greatest things about having children is that you acquire Buddha-like patience and tolerance even if you never wanted them in the first place. You learn the full story behind the concept of grace. You let them perceive thread-cutting as sewing because you know that they’ll eventually see the bigger picture.

Here’s my thought: can’t we all show that same grace and compassion towards one another? Patience doesn’t seem like something that should be reserved only for children, although they are certainly worthy recipients. No matter how old we are, we’re all learning and doing as best we can with the things we’ve learned thus far in life. Maybe instead of criticizing one another for the things that we don’t know or fully comprehend, we can remember that we’re all just learning.

We’ll all thread the needle eventually.


  1. Yes. Patience for ‘worthy recipients’. As we grow we lose the innocence and hence the worthiness to some extend. If I were asked what is that one quality I’d like to keep from my childhood I’d say innocence. The world would be a much happier place then.

  2. Great life lesson!

  3. This is beautiful, Emily. But I’m actually as enthralled with the glib way you refer to “sock-darning” as I am with your writing. Seriously? You darn socks?? With a light bulb? Wow–you put me, the old-school pioneer wife, to shame! I wouldn’t darn socks if my dog’s life depended on it!

    1. I do indeed darn socks! The habit is a holdover from when I was a super poor student. It still serves me well as a super poor grownup! Thanks for your sweet comment, Willow.

  4. Emily, that was just beautifully put and exactly what I needed to hear right now. Patience I have pretty well mastered but I’m still only inching toward grace and compassion. You’ve just nudged me closer to threading the needle. Thank you.

    1. Thank you, Eda! You just filled my buckets with your comment!

  5. This is amazing! As for your question as to why we can’t extend the same grace towards others, I think it has something to do with children being your own blood with others are, indeed others.
    A really crude way of saying this.

    1. I totally know what you mean :)

  6. The longer I’ve been a father the more patient I have become. You’re absolutely right. Children teach you patience whether you wanted it or not. Frankly, I was in dire need of some patience, so I’m thankful they were able to give it to me, even though it was sometimes a struggle.

    1. You are basically Yoda by now. (Also, please appreciate the fact that o just made a Star Wars reference.)

      1. Haha. You win the internet for today.

  7. Sweet angel and mommy. Love you two. Mom

  8. Of course she was sewing. And those of us who realize that are fortunate indeed. Lovely post!

    1. Thank you! Let me know if you need anything mended and I’ll get the lil’ seamstress on the case :)

  9. Andrea Middleton · · Reply

    What if we were as patient with *ourselves* as we are with our kids? :)

  10. You can’t sew without cutting the thread. A guy who does one thing on the assembly line is still, technically, building a car.
    But that’s not your point…
    Really enjoyed this post.

    1. That *is* a really good point, though.

  11. Yes I am looking on the bad side of people In the future I’ll look at the good side.

  12. Now that was beautifully described. Thank you for sharing it with us. I agree. We are all learning, falling flat on our faces and hoisting ourselves up to try again. That’s why I rarely get road rage or shouty with customer representatives – because hey – since when am I perfect? And shit, I do lose my temper sometimes with my kids, forgetting for a moment how new they are (comparatively) to this. Mostly though, I am 1000% more patient than when I started this gig nearly 11 years ago :)

  13. This is a beautiful piece. I love that you didn’t correct her, that you’ll let her learn for herself eventually. And I love that final line: “We’ll all thread the needle eventually.”

  14. That is truly beautiful. I just started following your blog and I already can’t wait to read more of what you have to say. (-:

  15. myhousefullofboys · · Reply

    Like sewing, life is a process. Sounds like she is perfecting that first step :)

  16. Great thought provoking, Miss Em. I so agree, and yet…I have become increasingly impatient of idiots as I’ve gotten older. Sometimes I have to physically restrain myself from screaming at dolts who don’t know how to drive, the person with 30 items ahead of me in the 10 items line, etc. I force myself to smile, and if it looks more like a pit bull baring its teeth than a friendly gesture, well, at least I’m trying.

  17. Teared up … as usual. I LOVE this part:

    One of the greatest things about having children is that you acquire Buddha-like patience and tolerance even if you never wanted them in the first place. You learn the full story behind the concept of grace. You let them perceive thread-cutting as sewing because you know that they’ll eventually see the bigger picture.

    And you know what? Even if they never see the big picture, extending grace to others is ALWAYS worth it.

    Grace to you, E.

Now you can hold the magic talking stick.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: