In “the olden days” as my kids would say, women would pass on a skill to their daughters. Like Ma in Little House on the Prairie – she would teach Laura and Mary how to sew. It would be time to spend together as mother and daughter, and the girls would be learning something they could use for the rest of their lives, and hopefully pass on to their own daughters.
Men did the same. They would teach their sons how to fish, how to build things with wood, or something equally as useful. This would be time together, like the girls, and a skill they could use their whole lives.
There’s something “old fashioned” to that notion, I suppose. These days, how many girls are learning to sew their own clothes? For that matter, how many of their own mothers sew their own clothes? While I have a few friends who make darling skirts and dresses for their daughters, and Halloween costumes, none of them exist on a wardrobe solely made by hand.
Likewise, it isn’t up to the men to build their own houses. No more log cabins in the middle of the woods or the prairies. Now, you buy a house in an already established neighborhood in most places. I realize there are woodworkers out there who make a living making beautiful furniture or cabinetry, and there are plenty of carpenters, but they don’t have to do it in order to build their own houses. It’s their living, but it’s not to build a roof over their own heads. They don’t need to teach their sons so that their sons can build their own houses.
(Okay, okay. I realize that this post isn’t accounting for Amish or similar communities, nor does it include other cultures in other countries. I’m specifically discussing Modern America.)
Even though it might not be “necessary” to teach a girl how to sew or knit, or for a boy to learn woodworking, they’re still good skills. My husband never learned how to build anything when he was young. He didn’t have tools at his disposal to work with. I don’t even think he took woodshop. Yet years later, when his aunt needed help around the house, he learned how to install a window and a door, and how to fix things. When it came time for us to have our own house, he taught himself how to work with wood, install electrical lines and build a wall. He redid several rooms in our house, including building this:
As you know, I knit. I don’t NEED to knit my own clothes. My children won’t go naked if I don’t knit them something, but they do have several items I have knit for them. I also knit for my sanity. Sometimes I just need to feel the yarn and needles in my hands – I need to see a ball of yarn turn into a garment that I made with my own hands. (I suspect my husband feels similarly to me in that regard.)
And I pass it on to my daughters.
And while they won’t be making all their own sweaters, or clothing their children this way, hopefully it’s a skill they’ll be able to use their whole lives. Hopefully it’s something they can do to relax, or to occupy their time while traveling, or making special hand-made gifts for friends. And hopefully, someday, they might be able to pass it on to their own children.