Before I launch into the subject of the letter, I need to talk about the quilt block that accompanies it.
I’m growing quite fond of the quilt I’m making you. I think I’ll have to speed up production, otherwise I may not be able to let it go. I’ve started to think about how to put all the quilt blocks together. I want to add a strip of fabric between each block. Probably a solid purple, but I am looking at alternatives. I want to achieve a good balance so that each part is shown off at it’s best.
The quilt block, this time, is called duck and ducklings. I like the pattern, but I’m not sure I understand the name. I see ducklings, at a squeeze, but the mother duck seems to have wandered off. Unless the middle part is the mother. Or not. Not that it really matters. I like the balance.
So. There is the quilt block. Now for the letter that goes with it, as part of the Dear Daughter Quilt project. In a way, it is about balance too. Different people joining in to achieve a harmony. Bear with me. You’ll see.
Last week, your brother looked thoughtful. He obviously had something on his mind that was troubling him. As we walked to school, he asked me a question. Took me back. I remember you asking a similar question, albeit the other way round, when you were even younger than he is now.
“It’s OK to have friends that are girls, isn’t it?”
“Yes, of course,” I told him.
“It’s just that T at school keeps on teasing me about me being friends with M.”
“Being friends with girls is good, just as its good to have friends that are boys. Ignore him. He’ll grow out of that attitude, one day. You can always ask him why he feels that way. Might make him think.”
I watched your brother disappear into the playground to find his friend. Presumably to chat about scooter tricks and Minecraft, as they usually do. Or ways to escape out of school. In his mind, it makes no difference whether she is a girl or boy. She likes the same things as him.
It got me thinking. Will that change? Will his friend T finally realise that boys can be friends with girls? Will your brother reach a point where he starts to believe T and think that girls don’t make good friends?
And while I am navel gazing, I don’t think I had a clear parenting directive on this aspect of friendships. Maybe I should have done. Although I didn’t think I needed to spell it out or artificially manufacture friendships. It should be natural. You like the people that you like.
At your age, I had best girl friends, but I also had a lot of friends that were boys. More like brothers, without the sibling rivalry. They were fun to be with and made me laugh. That was enough. I wasn’t about to start scratching our joint intials into the school desks (as if!)
I went on to carve out a career in an industry that was male dominated. Still is. I’m not sure I’d have felt so confident and held my own, if I’d not had that experience of having good male friends.
The work teams that I have enjoyed working in the most, have been a good balance of genders and/or a real mix of people. It needs to be mixed. If everyone is the same, has the same experiences, then they bring the same ideas to the project. More than likely, it will skew the approach and possibly the results.
You used to be friends with boys. In fact, I often thought you got on better with them. I don’t hear you talking about them anymore, only the really annoying boys. Maybe it will change again. Maybe you are surrounded by people who share your brother’s friend T’s take on life. I don’t know.
I guess I’m trying to tell you that it is still OK to be friends with boys. It will add something to your life. Balance, a different way of thinking, different interests. Who knows? There will always be people who try to link you romantically, but, hey, they’ll get over it. You can’t live your life for them.
Your loving mother
If you would like to see more quilt blocks or letters from this project, then click here. There is also an explanation about why I started on this marathon in the first place. Even I read that occasionally to remind myself!
I’m back with the 24th quilt block and 21st letter for your Dear Daughter Quilt. I’ve chosen the Broken Sugar Bowl block, this time. I like the pattern, but I struggle to see why it’s a sugar bowl. Is it just me? I guess I can see a break, but if you showed me this quilt block, I’d be unlikely to guess the name in a million years. It could be the fabric I chose, making me see a different pattern in the finished block.
Maybe it’s like looking up in the sky and seeing a cloud in the shape of a snapping crocodile, while the person next to you sees the same cloud as a person lying down in a hammock. As humans, we are set up to search for patterns and try to make sense of them, which brings me almost too neatly to the subject of this letter. Science and patterns.
Made up language
Science is about recognizing the patterns in the world around us and within, and wondering.
Numbers, equations and scientific terms are our way to express, manage the understanding and communicate these patterns. It is a made up language. The number 3 is made up. Two horse shoes, one sat on the other. Another symbol could easily be universally substituted and it would not change the value. So long as we’re all using the same symbol, we can communicate.
We use the language to explain the rules of the universe, or, in other words, the patterns they make. The patterns are already there.
Do you remember when you were younger and you used to add glitter to your Christmas cards? First you would add glue to the card. Arranging it carefully. Depending on the type of glue you used, you might find it difficult to see where you had already glued. Then you would sprinkle the glitter on and shake off the excess. Almost by magic your pattern would appear.
That is the same with science. It is already there. More than we can see yet. Using our made up language, experiments and observation, we can reveal it.
Learn the language and patterns/rules
Science, at your stage, is learning the language (and wondering).
You are unlikely to make big scientific breakthroughs at this stage, in exactly the same way that you were unlikely to write a best-selling novel while learning to read and write. Not impossible. Just unlikely, but maybe one day.
You are learning the basics and beginning to wonder. You need this knowledge. You need to know the patterns so that later you will notice when something doesn’t fit. It may seem to break the rules. Also you’ll need the basic rules so that you can use them to their full potential and apply them. Maybe putting different patterns together, to make something amazing. (Thinks aeroplanes)
You will have moments when the penny will drop and those will be wonderful moments. Savour them. There will be plenty more of them, given time.
You love science. You always have. You always loved joining in the experiments that we have tried at home. Leading the others and helping to explain it to your younger siblings. Teaching me a new way to express it, in some cases. I really liked that. I know that you are finding one of your science lessons boring. A bit dry.
May I suggest that you look at this subject slightly differently? It involves the use of maths. Maths is a useful language for expressing a pattern. Don’t believe me? Let me try and explain.
Imagine an algebra equation. A mixture of numbers, letters and signs. The letters represent numbers that are either unknown or could be a whole range of numbers. If you were to repetitively substitute numbers into the equation, and work it out, you would begin to create a pattern. (Think graph.) That is a formula. All it is, is a few (hopefully!) well placed letters, numbers and signs that represent a bigger picture, or pattern.
Maths allows this science subject to be expressed. It makes/reveals the patterns. The patterns help you to solve the puzzle. If you approach this subject as if it was a series of puzzles to be solved, would that make it more interesting? Your teacher, unknowingly, has become the clue giver.
I hope I’ve offered you a different way to look at science. I hope it inspires you to tackle your studies with fresh insight.
Look for the patterns.
Your loving mother
There are more quilt blocks and letters to read here. Some funny. Some serious. You can also read about why I started the Dear Daughter quilt for my daughter.
I’ve been busy sewing up a few blocks for your Dear Daughter quilt. I’m enjoying the new selection of fabrics that we found over the summer. Still sticking to the general colour theme. I’m trying to mix the existing fabrics in with the new additions.
The subject for the letter to go with each block has been longer to ponder. We have so many great conversations, which one do I want to expand on. Then it came to me, as I wondered why this block is called butterfly at the crossroads. Hair straighteners used by teen girls.
OK. I realise that on first glance, probably second and third, there is no connection, but believe me, it was one of those moments when the penny dropped. The final jigsaw piece fell into place. Let me try to explain. It has to do with the connection between fashion and the economy. Fashion and psychological effect.
To start with there is a well known correlation between the prosperity of a nation and the length of skirts in fashion at the time. In the 60s they were short and tight. In the eighties, they were long and flowing.
Makes sense, if you think about it. When money is tight, a skirt can be manufactured for less if less fabric is used. It can be offered at a lower price, which fits with most household budgets during a recession. The skirt will sell. When money is more abundant, then a full skirt with lots of swishing fabric is a way of showing you have money to spare and gives a feel good factor. More expensive to produce, but that’s OK as household budgets can afford it.
So where do hair straighteners come into it? A strange choice of subject, especially as you don’t have any. You are blessed with naturally straight hair. Like your mother. There seems to be a difference between naturally straight and the effect achieved by hair straighteners. One has the hint of a wave to it, while the other is as straight as a pin. It all comes down to control.
When I was a teen in the late 80s, hair straighteners were not part of my vocab. Hair was big, curled and swished. Sometimes all at the same time. It needed to be big, to match the proportions of the shoulder pads that were in all clothes at the time. We were going to conquor the world. We kicked off our boots and danced foot loose.
We were going to conquor the world.
Those without waves, added waves to our hair. (I went to an international school – I need to add that in somewhere.) We had curling tongs. We mastered the art of casually flicking the top section of our long hair in a way that added body to it. This movement would be repeated every few minutes. Even more when agitated. It was all about big hair, like a mane. Thinking back I can’t imagine what it was like to teach a class full of girls constantly flicking their hair. Distracting, maybe intimidating.
No one had straight, straight hair. It was all about volume and tousled hair. Slightly out of control. Big and impressive.
Roll forward to now. Hair seems to be controlled and kept in line. Literally in line, when it comes to straighteners.
Why the change?
I think partly, it comes down to the fact that current teens have more stress, and pressure to achieve, put on them than I remember as a teen. I spent last night reviewing the national curriculum for year 5 and brushing up on the new curriculum for maths GCSE. There is a lot.
Don’t get me wrong. Back in the 80s, we were stressed by the pressure of exams and the desire to achieve. We had dreams. Big dreams. Nothing was going to stop us. We were all going to get good grades.
I know the decades in between have gifted me with rose-tinted glasses, but we didn’t have 24/7 social media lives and we didn’t have easy access to information, as you do now. (Yes, I passed my A Levels without the help of Google) The latter should make it easier, but at the same time this means it is assumed that you can do more. More concepts. Raising the bar. You feel the stress. Teen mental health is discussed more readily in the media and by professionals. With stress comes the feeling that you lack control.
With stress comes the feeling that you lack control.
So what do teens do? They can take control of their hair. Straighten it. Leave no hair out of place. Having big carefree hair would not fit with your mindset. It needs to be sleek and point down. Fortunately, shoulder pads are no longer a thing. The hair tousling flick of my youth has been replaced by hair-checking and simultaneous smoothing of the front section of hair between the thumb and index finger. Maybe less dramatic and less distracting in class. Where we flicked up, you pull down. Up-lift as opposed to sinking. The psychological affect of this movement is interesting. Are they trying to pull their hair out? This is the part that interests me the most but you probably guessed that.
I have so many theories I’d like to explore.
I could go on. I have so many theories I’d like to explore. Tying up the relative dreamy, carefree butterfly to the controlling hair straightener. I could be wrong. There may be no link.
I am by no means damning hair straighteners. They are just the method used to achieve the style, not a cause of the mindset. Nor am I saying that straightening hair causes stress. I am suggesting that it is more of a reflection/reinforcement of the mood/mindset/mind.
Oh my goodness. I know that this is a long letter. Thank you for seeing it to the end. I’ll leave you with just one final thought. Maybe just occasionally every teen girl should try the hair flick movement of the 80s. I’d prescribe it to be repeated at least a hundred times for a day. You never know, they may just like it.
Your loving mother
p.s. Apologies that this is aimed at girls and not boys. I’m sure as my tween boy becomes a teen boy, my perspective will change. I did have friends that gave Paul Young and Limahl a run for their money. Another who grew his hair, ready for a school holiday and his chance to perfect his mohican. Big, up and out hair was not just for the girls.
To see more of the “my Dear Daughter” quilt blocks and other letters, click here.