When I was a little girl, I would tear the pom-poms off my grandmother’s chenille bedspread and plant them because I thought they would grow into flowers. I have no idea where this came from. I have a hard time remembering events from my childhood but for some reason, I remember those pom-poms and the insistent thought that they would grow.
If my grandmother knew that I did this, she never let on.
Her name was Erma but we all called her Grandmother Pete. She stood tall in wisdom, stubbornness, and grace. She would not allow anyone to overshadow her short frame of 5’2”.
Grandmother Pete took immense pride in her family, her work, and her home. She was also an amazing cook and seamstress. Her chicken and dumplings are still the best I’ve ever tasted (yes, even including the chicken and dumplings at Cracker Barrel!). And her chocolate coconut cake will forever be my favorite dessert.
She grew up in the last generation where your livelihood depended on the skills of homemaking. We still need to cook meals for our family but we no longer need to sew our clothes or curtains or bed sheets and blankets. When Grandmother Pete passed away in 1996, somehow I inherited her sewing machine and Dutch oven. Both of which I eventually sold in garage sales after I got married. For the longest time I felt guilty about that. (Some of you reading this may have gasped at the thought of selling those.)
Did she see something in me that I didn’t? Perhaps. Or maybe she knew that I didn’t have to become an expert at cooking and sewing, but she did know the importance of building life skills that I would eventually teach the next generation. You do not need to be an expert to teach basic life skills but you do need patience and practice. My grandmother didn’t become a great cook and seamstress right away. It took years of practice.
Technology has changed us and we opt for what’s quick. There are positives and negatives to that for sure. I’ll never turn down a fountain drink with nugget ice and it would be difficult for me to give up the convenience of central heating and air conditioning!
But there is something to be said about learning how to make French press coffee. Or even the hours-long process that it takes when my husband smokes meat on the grill in the summer. But even those have conveniences to them—I didn’t have to roast the coffee beans or go out and butcher the cow. I get my coffee from Amazon and we buy a cow every year at the butcher and freeze it.
One of the negatives of the convenience of technology is that my kids expect to become an expert at something right away. You can learn just about anything from the internet or YouTube. I think that it is fantastic to earn something new, but don’t expect to be an expert right away.
A few weeks ago, my daughter asked if I would help her sew a Union Jack patch that I bought her last year in London onto her backpack. I don’t have a sewing machine (I sold it, I know!) but I do have a simple needle and thread for sewing buttons and simple stitches or hems.
I grabbed my supplies and thought I’d teach her how to sew on this patch and at the same time, sew on a button. Clothes will forever have buttons that need to be sewed back on, won’t they? This is a skill that I can teach! It was a fun afternoon of hanging out with my daughter and practicing how to sew on a button and a patch.
After that afternoon with her, I started to think: What other simple skills could I teach my kids? What would be good for them to know before they leave the house one day? Here are some ideas:
- Make coffee—especially French press
- Change a tire
- Cook eggs (scrambled, fried, over easy—all the ways)
- Clean a bathroom
- Drive a manual transmission car
- Iron (Oh man, do I hate this one! But sometimes it’s necessary.)
- Wash clothes—specifically how to get out stains
- Read a (paper!) map
- Balance a checkbook
- Bait a fishing hook
- How to play all kinds of card games
- Instill in them the love of putting together a puzzle
- How to rest and be okay with being bored
I may not have inherited the cooking or sewing skills from Grandmother Pete, but I sure hope when my kids want to plant pom-poms or whatever crazy idea they come up with, that I won’t discourage their creativity.
I hope that I help them realize that whatever skill they are trying to learn, that it will take some patience and practice.