The Free Motion Quilting Project: A Different Summer

Saturday, May 28, 2016

A Different Summer

Yesterday was James's last day of school and the official start to summer break - three solid months of summer fun. Yippee!

However... most likely James won't consider this summer as fun as previous summers. A few months ago Josh and I realized we needed a big change. Far less electronics, far more sunshine. Much less tolerance for tears and tantrums, far more expectation for determination and patience. We literally changed our parenting style overnight, created a list of new family rules, and began enforcing every single one with some sort of physical exercise or chore.

Does this make me sound mean? For the past few months I have felt a bit mean. I enrolled my child in karate classes, added to his daily chores, pushed him to work harder, ignored tears and punished whining. Trust me, the past few months have been tough for all three of us.

But we've seen wonderful results. Back in February James was having issues in second grade. He wouldn't focus. He couldn't sit still. He'd rush through work and not care a bit about the quality, just about being the first one done. No, James doesn't have ADD, or some other label like that. He just needed more guidance, more structure, and, apparently, a lot more experience raking leaves in the back yard.

Over the past few months I've seen James transform from a wimpy crybaby to a resilient and respectful nine year old. Yes, I cringe at the words "wimpy crybaby" because I know someone, somewhere is going to judge me. How dare you call your son a crybaby! We want men to have emotions and be empathetic!

Yes, absolutely, I agree with you. But we also don't want to raise a man-baby who melts down when his boss asks him to work on a Friday night. Or do something he doesn't particularly like. I want my son to be in touch with his emotions, but not be ruled by them. I want to raise an adult, not a child in a grown-up body.

So in this spirit of parenting, this summer is going to be quite different. Instead of so-called educational television to "keep him occupied" James will be occupied continually with tasks that build dexterity in his hands, patience and perseverance in his mind, and strength in his body.

Today James hand stitched charm squares together while I wrote quilt patterns for fall market and when he made the exact same mistake three times (looping the thread over the seam allowance instead of stitching up through the fabric correctly), I made him do 15 push-ups as punishment.

Yes, I punished my child for not just hand stitching badly, but mostly for making the same mistake repeatedly, which implies he wasn't paying attention, wasn't engaged with the task, or simply didn't care.

Up until now I've resisted this sort of parenting because it was very similar to the way I was raised. My dad would often send me and my sisters outside and lock the doors so we couldn't come back in. I can remember feeling shut-out and unloved, feelings I never wanted my child to feel.

But then again... I turned out okay. These days I'm starting to think that maybe those times being outside for a few hours weren't so bad after all. I learned how to entertain myself. I found something to make or create. I usually got pretty muddy, and ultimately I had fun.

If I don't send James outside, how will he learn this, experience this, find this for himself? He won't. If I don't push my child to pay attention to his mistakes so he will stop making them, how will he learn how to avoid them? If I don't help my child build these mental and physical muscles, who will?

So here's to a different type of summer! Far less television. Almost no video games. Lots more sunshine. Lots more chores. Lots more to learn, and way more growth. After all... isn't that my word for this year... grow?

Let's go grow,

Leah Day


  1. Parenting is hard when done right. You are a caring and good mom. Patty Mc (I'm the mother of 3 grown, responsible, sons.)

  2. Go you! Parenting is a hard job. Kids who don't learn to keep trying or to do a good job pay for it big time later.

    Applause to you and Josh for giving James the love that will help him grow into a responsible adult.

  3. You are doing what I wish I would have done. Once we put tvs in the kids rooms, we never saw them again. It is a shame parents have to FORCE their kids outside. My son once loved outside activities but once he discovered gaming ...

  4. So glad that someone is enforcing consequences for poor quality performance, too bad that our government doesn't make their running wild agencies go rake leaves!

  5. Finally! Someone who 'gets it." Congratulations and may all who reads your article follow along.

  6. I commend you for wanting to raise an adult and not a child in an adult's body. Disciplining a child is increasing more difficult for most, as our society has placed so much pressure on allowing children so much freedom. I don't know the answer, but I lean to believe structure and discipline can be used to help guide a very happy, creative, loving, hard working adult. I'm sure you'll sense the right balance of pushing, punishment, encouragement, play and life in general and I'm confident James is going to grow up to be a wonderful adult.


    ps - thanks for sharing, what can be a difficult topic to share openly.

  7. Bravo Leah! The big thing in the news these days is that kids stay at home with their parents until they are in their 30s because they have never learned independence and cannot cope with everyday life. I think you are doing your child a HUGE favor. It doesn't mean you don't love him. In French we say: Qui aime bien, chatie bien! which means "Who loves well, knows how to punish fairly". You have my support! You and Josh are so wise and mature: keep up the great parenting.

  8. "I want my son to be in touch with his emotions, but not be ruled by them." This is beautiful! It is a difficult balance to learn for grownups, yet alone little ones, but it is such an important thing to master. Bravo to you for helping him. Your perspective and reasonings are sound. We just had to put the gauntlet down at our house and my kids are not very happy with the limitations. Because we are doing this not as a way to punish them but as a way for them to learn and grow, I don't feel mean issuing the consequences we decided on.

  9. Yeah for you! When I hear a "whimpy crybaby" at the store, I want to punish the parents. They ignore their children, putting on a deaf ear. Gosh, they might hurt their ego. I hat my kids tell me they "hate me" many times, but they grew up to be responsible, hard working and very successful in their chosen fields.

  10. i agree kids should have limits, chores, consequences. Too many do not and they are the ones following Bernie expecting free college, free phones and $15/hour flipping burgers.

    I was with you till the stitching thing. Kids will develop hand eye dexterity at different ages. Frank's hands always shook slightly, as an adult they are still shaky. He has what is called an essential tremor. No amount of punishment would have made him stitch straight!

    1. I completely agree that punishing straight stitching would be insane. I was punishing James making a mistake in inserting the needle going the wrong direction (up instead of down) so the thread looped over the seam allowance instead of forming a stitch. I fixed it three times in a row, and each time he rushed and made the same mistake. Taking a break with 15 pushups forced him to pay attention and he slowed down and put more attention into the task.

  11. Parenting is the hardest job - amd you are the expert about your child.
    Your style sounds good to me.
    Seeing the photo of James mowing the lawns is great my DS loved doing the lawns - could I suggest that he should be wearing some sort of ear plugs to protect his hearing

  12. Parenting isn't easy! What will help get you through is the conviction it will benefit ALL of you in the end (and us...everyone who lives with the children being raised.)

    You are brave to be so open. There will be somebody to find fault with any parenting choice...literally any.

  13. I love what you're doing. Very creative! Especially like the push up idea, which I had used that with my step kids!

  14. I love this article and completely agree with you! Also, I remember my mother locking my brothers and myself outside and we are just fine!


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