A Patchwork of Pleasant Words
This post is decorated with my progress in patchwork pillow making, photographs of the Petersheim’s quilts in Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania and two sleepy grandchildren.
Piecing fabric together for pillows made me think of piecing together pleasant words at bedtime.
It was four o’clock in the afternoon. Soon super needed to be on the table and I was frazzled. My husband, Dean, was away for the week, out-of-state on business. My children were all very young, the youngest was six weeks old, and I was still relatively new to this thing called home education.
“Mommy, what are you doing,” my child asked.
“I’m sitting on the calm-down-stair,” I said. The woe-is-me look on my face softened to a smile when I saw her quizzical brow.
She smiled too and said, “Oh.” Then she flitted off to find (or instigate) her little sister.
This fidgety, curious daughter, who was learning self-control, knew where I was sitting. She must have thought it odd that Mommy should be there, not her. She, of all the children, was the one most familiar with that spot – where we had our little conversations. It occurred to me that I could try using the time-out tactics on myself – for a few purposeful minutes of calm reflection.
Reading Miss Charlotte Mason’s advice I had learned to keep my verbal commands of dos and don’ts to a minimum. My authority was “felt” by my children while we, together, followed a rhythm of activity. Lessons were accomplished in far less time than in a classroom. Therefore the children enjoyed the freedom to be playful and child-like at a short distance from me – more freedom than classroom children have – while I used the eyes in the back of my head when working in the kitchen, or taking care of the baby.
I sought to meet the needs of my children. At the same time, by gentle discipline, I sought to establish good habits baby step by baby step – so that they would follow my lead in what was expected of them.
Still, some days were especially humbling. These were days of interruptions. Some days seemed too busy, too demanding of my care and attention. “This is too hard for me,” I prayed on the calm-down-stair. Dear Lord Jesus, I want to be a good mother but I can only do this with your help – please.”
And He did help. I would recall something I had read in His word or some lines I had memorized from a beloved hymn or an idea out of a trusted book. When the words came to mind so did the impressions and encouragement of the ideas behind them. With thankfulness I arose and faced what was left of the day with renewed courage, and renewed humor.
When a child is naughty or forgetful, when admonishments are given, when its been “that-sort-of-day” where a child sits on the calm-down stair, if the day has brought disappointment or a small privilege withheld from a child’s enjoyment, bedtime should not reflect a parent’s exasperation. Let corrections be dealt with at the time of the misdeed. The longer a correction is put off “until Father gets home” or later, the greater a mother’s fatigue and the less likely she is to discipline and “restore such a one gently” and with clear-headedness.
If ever good habits are needed to help carry the day they are those of the bedtime routine. This is when a parent’s “stock of patience is at its lowest,” says Henry Clay Trumble in Hints on Child Training. He adds, “If the children are not as quiet and orderly and prompt as they should be, the parents rebuke them more sharply than they would for similar offenses earlier in the day.”
Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower.
Comes a pause in the day’s occupations,
That is known as the Children’s Hour.
(There are further stanzas to the poem.)
Bedtime or the “Children’s Hour” - as it is so sweetly referred to in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s playful poem written about his own energetic little girls - requires just that – the space of a patient hour.
After the supper dishes are washed, teeth are brushed directly and the day winds down. Baths are taken, PJ’s go on, rooms are straightened, a picture book or two or three is read aloud, earnest prayers are offered. Now is the time that a patchwork of pleasant words are readily absorbed by the children – perhaps never more closely attended to than at this dark and lonely parting hour – as the light is turned off and the child receives his good-night kiss.
No one ever outgrows an affectionate good-night however grown-up he is.
I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8
Bedtime should never be a time to remind a child (or teen) of his shortcomings and misdeeds or critique them. We may, instead, hold up a standard by showing appreciation for good attitudes or good deeds. Or share “whatsoever things” are lovely or of good report.
“What were you and your brother making with those shoe boxes? I liked seeing you play together and share the boxes so nicely today,” I might say - while silently thinking, “even if it did mean using up every roll of tape in the house.”
“The sky was as blue as blue can be today while we raked the leaves wasn’t it? Thanks for your help. Oh, there’s a piece of a leaf in your hair.”
“Dad liked the birthday card you made him. Did you see his face when he bit into the delicious cake we iced?
“Tomorrow is a new day,” is something I would say brightly when I could think of nothing else.
Doesn’t Mr. Trumble, father of ten, say it beautifully?
“A wise parent will prize and will rightly use the hour of the children’s bedtime. That is the golden hour for good impressions on the children’s hearts. That is the parent’s choicest opportunity of holy influence. . . . every word spoken should be a word of gentleness and affection. The words which are most likely to be borne in the mind by the children, in all their later years, as best illustrating the spirit and influence of their parents, are the good-night words of those parents."
A quotation sent to me from a reader:
“No pillow so soft as a divine promise, no coverlet so warm as an assured interest in Christ.” Charles Spurgeon
Passages are borrowed from the chapter, “Good-night Words” in Hints on Child Training by Henry Clay Trumble, originally published in 1890. I linked the book title to Rainbow Resource Center.