Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Mompetition: What it is and how to avoid it.

(Sorry for the long absence, my day job is suddenly very busy, which is a great sign for our economy. If the arts are picking up, certainly other industries are as well! But it means less posting, apparently. We will return to Sewing Week after this brief interruption!)

From the day our babies are born, us Mothers are entered into the Mompetition Games. How big was your baby? Eight pounds? Puh-lease. Little Elsie was eight and half pounds! You don't know what a big baby is!

As they grow, it goes on. How much are they eating? How long are you nursing? Does your child eat sushi or just chicken nuggets? What growth percentile are they in? Do they know their letters and colors? Oh, pfft. Mine knew the alphabet at six months. And you are teaching Baby Signs, right? We've moved on to pre-algebra, the first grade math program is just boring her. Oh, you're just doing General Education? We're doing the Special Curriculum, we just think it's best for Junior.

Yeah. You know what I'm talking about.

It's annoying as all hell, because no matter what your child does or did or could ever hope to do is certain to be bested by some Goody-Two-Shoes Mom who is defining herself through her child and their acheivements. Even if those acheivements are little more than having the biggest fecal production of the day in the pediatrician's office, this mom takes the spotlight by proxy.

It was Mompetition that drove me from the playgroups early on in my parenting career. I simply could not tolerate the constant inference that my son was somehow inferior because he could not "sign" for water at three months, and that I was an inferior parent for not doing math flashcards at three weeks. After getting the stinkeye for admitting that I had trouble nursing in the early days, I just decided these women weren't worth my time. (Double mastitis? Clearly I had done something wrong, was their implication.)

So for years I operated safely outside the Mompetitor games. I just collected Stitch from Preschool, nodded politely at the other mothers and made a hasty exit. I didn't bother answering questions about diet, study habits or bowel movements.

Then Stitch began Figure Skating, and I inadvertently entered the Mompetitor Olympics.

He's stuck at Freestyle Three? Oh... *insert subtle look*

And somehow your child's inability to master a complex skill overnight becomes a reflection on you. Honestly, sometimes I think I'd rather say that Stitch has a drinking problem than say he's still working through the Change Foot Spin, just because I can't stand that Judgey Look. (I believe my detractors have used the terms "struggling with," which I find to be disheartingly mean. I struggle with separating grocery carts. I am working through forward crossovers, a new skill.)

Conversely, if you have a child who can skate, who really does master complex skills overnight, you're in for a different world of hurt. Yesterday I received a gift of chocolate from a fellow skating mom, thanking me for "being so nice."

All I do is talk to her while the kids have lessons. We talk food, our various craft projects, pets, school, homework, politics, and occasionally, skating. But really, she gets a lot of cold shoulder at that rink, and I think it has a lot to do with how her little girl owns that ice. She's blowing away Freestyle Four at the moment, much to the consternation of a Mompetitor who does nothing but give Other Mom the silent treatment.

As a mom, it's all too easy to fall into the trap of defining yourself through your child. When your child does great things, of course you are proud and want to share that success. It's certainly cool to be the "Mother of the Awesome Kid." But when you fall into that pit, you run the risk of exposing yourself to severe ego damage when your child falters, fails, or even worse, is outperformed by another child. And if you don't think that's going to happen, think again.

What makes it worse is the weird imperative that your child must Figure Skate as a "Serious" Competitor or not at all. ("Your child just does ISI competitions? Pfft, we switched out of that long ago.")

Once you and your child's performance are linked, you simply cannot face those Other Moms with children you percieve as better than yours, nor can you spend enough time around those moms with children who are behind yours in their skillset. Your friendships at the rink are suddenly terribly limited, based on fragile terms, and very often under false pretenses. Is that any way to lead a Social Life?

Other Mom often hung out in the lobby, just doing her own thing, and yes, she did seem a little aloof. But one day I introduced myself and struck up a conversation with her. As it turns out, she's in the lobby because her daughter wants her there and it's too cold in the rink anyway. It had nothing to do with her personality, which is warm, funny and inviting.

So, how do you avoid Mompetition? Just don't buy it.

Whenever someone starts talking smack about another Mom, smile and nod, and gently steer the conversation to something else. If they insist, find somewhere else to be. (The Booth. The Cafe. The Broom Closet. Anywhere.) If you see a mom hanging out alone, say Hi. If you meet a new family at the rink, be nice.

And when you meet a Mom who is making dubious choices in pursuit of their child's skating, simply mind your own backyard, stay out of their way, and try to be a positive influence.

We're just here to skate. No one at the rink is curing cancer or writing a Middle Eastern Peace Treaty. It's just figure skating. Do unto others as you would have them not talk about you when you go to the bathroom.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Sewing Trims

Now that we've picked a trim, we have to get it onto our garment somehow. Our friend Sophie is sewing pants. Pants pose a challenge because you have to apply the trim onto a finished seam rather than a panel, and you end up working in a tube.

The trick is Patience, and Pinning. Pins are your best friend. Lay the pants down flat, and lay the trim onto them. Pin it down, being careful not to go all the way through to the other side of the garment.

To sew it down, choose a regular Sharp needle. (They're actually called Sharps, which seems intuitive but whatever.) You'll be tempted to use a clear Nylon thread, like this one.

Sewer Beware! It's clear, but not a great idea!

Be careful. My experience with clear Nylon is that it decays over time, becoming brittle. I have a netted beaded bag that is slowly disintegrating due to a poor thread choice I made. I'd be safe and choose a thread color that is a close match, like this burgundy thread on burgundy lace.

Start at the end, folding over the edge of the trim for neatness. Whipstitch the edge, and start working your way up. For a trim like this, I use a backstitch in roughly 1/4" lengths. For everyone using metric, go two centimeters long. Don't bother pulling the needle in and out, because you're in a tube and you're going to end up annoying yourself. Simply pull the needle staying on the outside of the garment.

Here's a link to a basic hand sewing tutorial with videos:

This is a pretty gaudy beaded trim, and beaded trims carry some caveats. They need care. This trim features glass tube beads affixed with cotton thread, which means the little sharp glass tube edges are rubbing against poor cotton thread, cutting it over time. Beads do fall off. Be on the lookout for loosies, resewing them down as you come to them.

See the sharp glass rubbing on that poor thread? It will eventually tear.

For slung sequins, I use a regular running stitch going through the holes of the sequins. If you look here, you can see my sewing threads on this leftover piece of trim I created for Pink Panther.

On the back, it's also easy to see what I did.

When dealing with stretch trims, use the same techniques, but don't pull the threads tight. Leave them a little loose to allow the fabric underneath and the trim to give. When we say, "tack on this trim," we really mean that. Just tack it on so it stays.

Check in with your trimmed garments before and after wearing, especially if they're a beaded or heavy trim. Check for torn thread, loose beads, or floppy bits, and re-sew them as needed. A beaded garment is a high-maintenance garment, and for something that is actually pretty Athletic wear, you need to repair abuse as it happens.

Up next, Appliques and You