Knitting the Child
by Joanne den Boer, SCSBC Director of Learning ◊
Click, click. Click, click. Knit one. Purl one. Cast over yarn.
As a young child, I watched, with fascination, the speedy double-pointed knitting needles of my mother. Taught in Holland, and with a knitting needle tucked securely under each armpit, she could knit one, purl one faster than anyone that I knew – without looking at a pattern book or even at the mitten project in her lap. I don’t know how, but my mother seemed to be able to knit and daydream at the same time, never once dropping a stitch.
I particularly enjoyed the warm affection we shared when mom had me try on the half-knitted mitten. Tiny hands negotiated needles everywhere! There were six in all. I had to be oh-so careful not to dislodge the three tiny knitting needles that held in place the gusset of the unfinished thumb.
“Ja, a li’l bit furder en den I will be done. What vor colour stripe you want next?” she’d ask.
In reverential silence, mom knitted the finger and thumb sections until, finally, she was ready to carefully cast off stitches to complete the mitten. To a child, knitting is pure mystery. The mystery, I now know, is not in the knitting – it is in the daydreaming. To be more precise, the mystery is in the humble prayers that were offered as incense1 with the appearance of each stripe of my new mitten.
This made me consider Psalm 139:13. For You created my inmost being; You knit me together, or covered me, in my mother’s womb. There was a time when I was smaller than a peanut. I was hidden from the view of my expectant mother when she knit my first bonnet. And while my mother was knitting for me, the Lord was knitting me. My substance (skeleton) was not hid from the Lord while He was knitting me in secret. When my form was complete, and the figurative stitches cast off, I was born. I was, and am, fearfully and wonderfully made.
But I wonder. Once born, did God stop knitting me? Or did He pass on the knitting needles to my parents? True, God finished knitting my body with all the little details like neurons, synapses, senses, cartilage, and the like. But what about the spiritual, intellectual, social, emotional, and physical development – who knit those? I like to believe these were shaped on the special knitting needles of prayer, love, affection, and tender care of my Christian parents.
Infants and young children need to have strong bonds with their parents. As they grow, they need to learn and experience the safety found in parents’ love. Parents help them develop confidence and self-control. There is much more to how parents guide and shape their child’s development, of course.2
Which leads me to ponder a BC Ministry of Education’s statement regarding young children in pre-kindergarten, that “early childhood education and personalized learning can both be huge factors in our children’s success in school and in life.” 3
Regarding having four-year olds in school, it has this to say. “Before we start down a path of pre-kindergarten, we are concentrating on successfully implementing full day kindergarten and strengthening our StrongStart BC programs.” 4 This is welcome news because parents won’t need to cast off four-year-old stitches prematurely.
We do well to remind ourselves that in 2010 the Ministry of Education acknowledged that independent schools may exercise their right to offer choice to parents. Our schools may offer both half day and full day kindergarten for five-year olds. For this we remain thankful.
My mother tells me an anecdote about two aunts who were her master knitting teachers. When they were elderly, they lived in a home for seniors. One tante was proudly knitting a pot holder. The other happily rolled wool into a ball. Unfortunately this was problematic since she had dementia. Tante Woolwinder was also Tante Unraveler for she had unwittingly begun her new ball of wool with the tail of the cast-on yarn that held the first stitch in the pot holder. While one knitted, the other unraveled.
I’m wondering, should the time ever come when the province of British Columbia enfolds four-year-olds into the education system as full-day pre-kindergarten students, is that tantamount to unraveling their development? Should parents be encouraged to hold onto the knitting needles and yarn transferred to them by the Lord, and continue to knit their child at home for just a little longer? Many of our schools partner with parents and share in knitting the child through Christian preschool programs. These programs are wonderfully designed with the child in mind – a few hours per day, and a few days per week.
Knit one. Purl one.
…………………………………….1 – Psalm 141:2 2 – Ephesians 6:4, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes 3 – Conference notes from presentation at BC-CASE Conference, April 2012 4 – Ibid