Core Phase Crochet

little girlIt’s hard being little. I remember keenly wanting to fit in with all the older people around me. I was the youngest of six kids—and quite a bit younger, at that.

The closest in age was four years older, and they went up from there to about 11 years older.

No matter how old I was, I was still the baby. (Still am!)

Some people would say I had an old soul. I do remember feeling like I was stuck in a little body.

To make matters more complicated, I was interested in adult things and was academically precocious.

So I in my fevered little mind, I was on-par with the “taller” people around me; they just couldn’t see it.

Why do I share this? I’ve been pondering about my six-year-old, Meri.

Actually, she now says she prefers to be called by her full name: America Esther.

She called me on the cell phone a couple of days ago while I was at the grocery store and pleaded with me to buy her yarn: “red, blue, green, pink, yellow, purple, orange…did I say red?”

I explained that we had a veritable yarn store right in our own house, and promised to show her to the supply when I got home. She met me in the driveway with impatient expectations.

We chose a nice pink one, I pulled it and rolled it into a nice yarn ball, and she went happily on her way.

Later, while I was doing some work on the computer, she came to me and asked me to help her learn to crochet. I showed her how to make a chain using just her fingers.

Her joy soon turned to disappointment, as her small hands were unable to duplicate my simple moves.

I suggested a different activity and she moved on. But I haven’t stopped thinking about it. And I think maybe she hasn’t either.

She wants what I wanted: Validation. To fit in with a houseful of older and much more accomplished people. Shared experiences.

Energy, momentum, progress. But in some important ways, she’s not ready or able to do what she sets out to do, and won’t get what she’s after.

I confess that privately I’ve been thrilled and relieved to find her so ambitious to learn to read and write since she was four.

But as I watched her fumble with that yarn, I had to ask myself what was driving her to do something she wasn’t ready for—and if it wasn’t a metaphor for many of her other ambitions in general.

She has a need. She’s searching for a way to fill it.

And I’ve almost given in to becoming a willing accomplice in allowing her to seek fulfillment of that deep emotional need through doing—instead of being.

I strongly feel that Doing is a part of Being, and an integral part of self-worth and happiness.

But I also believe that Doing is subordinate to Being–that it, in fact, is an easy substitute and even a counterfeit for Being, and must come as a natural outgrowth of a healthy approach to Being.

Meri is not yet fully morally aware and accountable.

canstockphoto-momlisteningI need to counsel with my husband and my older children.

We all need to evaluate our conduct toward her and be mindful of respecting and communicating her individual worth without the conditional value of size, age, or ability.

I need to brainstorm ways to help her feel a sense of personal power through principled conduct, self-mastery and service.

I need to ponder and learn what portion of her ambition is healthy and appropriate, and what portion of it represents a hunger that should be filled in some other way than what she, in her unseasoned and naïve way, is gravitating toward.

I see a hazard that, if everything were to go wrong on this course she seems embarked upon, she might become an over-achiever who seeks outward approval—a pleaser with no sense of personal triumph or altruistic reward.

I need to take more time for cuddles and giggles to remind myself and reassure her that we can connect on a Core Phase level.

I need to take more time for laughter and listening to re-energize my own Core Phase.

Here’s the rub: if I’m not connecting with my six-year-old on a Core Phase level, I’m most likely missing too many opportunities to connect with the others of the family on a Core Phase level.

That’s quite a wake-up call from a fumbled finger chain.

Xoxox rd

About the Author:

Rachel is the co-author of Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning and the audio series Core and Love of Learning: A Recipe for Success, and the author of the award-winning educational resource, This Week in History. She is an accomplished musician, writer, literary editor, public speaker, consultant and momschool organizer.


  1. Roxane Colburn March 23, 2011 at 9:06 am - Reply

    Thank you. Great thoughts…and timely for me. I too have a child whom I worry places too much of his value on pleasing others and by doing. True, he receives great satisfaction to himself for the things he accomplishes and that is good, but it also seems to be very important that he point out to me what he has accomplished. Approval is important to him, and while there is nothing wrong with desiring parental approval and I’m glad he wants to please his father and I, that approval should not remain the core of his reasons for “doing”. One thing that I think I will begin to do is rather than praising him when he comes seeking approval for his accomplishments, I will reflect the focus back on him and toward how HE must feel…as in “Wow, that must feel great to you. You chose to do x and you accomplished it.” And then as you say, I must seek for ways to connect on a core level which shows him his worth regardless of what he accomplishes.

    I think we tend to place so much…perhaps too much…focus on the later stages. As though scholar phase is “higher up” and therefore more desirable. For many of us, I think this is probably a symptom of our “grade level” upbringings and our focus on “class”. We need to realize (and remember) that the model is more like a ball or an apple…or an onion…layered. How important it is that we not neglect the core and also to not diminish its value as we prioritize activities. Indeed what good is a beautiful shiny red apple with no core?

  2. Vicky Hoffman March 23, 2011 at 11:16 am - Reply

    That was truly beautiful. My little Charlie is a lot like your Meri. I too had this experience as a child and am forever greatful that I can see the process and growing that needs to happen. The slow nurturing of a big person in a little body. I too have found that the more snuggles the better for my little Charlie who at 7 is ready to take on the world. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Rachel DeMille March 24, 2011 at 8:49 am - Reply

      Thanks, Vicky. My Daily Inspire! email for 3/28/11 sort of speaks to this. It’s called “The Best Things Won’t Be Rushed.” I’ll add a link here as soon as it goes live…

      xoxoxo rd

  3. Marie Arnold March 24, 2011 at 8:23 pm - Reply

    I have enjoyed reading your article today. I have asked myself many times through the day, “Am I finding fulfillment and validation through doing or being?” There is so much “doing” as a wife and mother and yet all the doing is never done. Perhaps that is why some women feel discontented with life. We haven’t really learned this “core phase ” lesson. Sometimes we seem to think: “When it’s all done I have succeeded.” What a great principle: fulfillment in being.

    I need to ponder how I can feel a sense of personal power through “principled conduct, self-mastery and service.” Then I need to inspire my children to find that power in their lives. I am glad you shared this “core phase” lesson with me!

  4. Rachel DeMille March 25, 2011 at 5:43 am - Reply

    Thanks, for that, Marie. It’s funny how we sometimes forget that we, our spouses, our older children, etc., all need the Core Phase lessons as much as the little ones. I guess that’s another example of “You, not Them.”

    You put it so very well!


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