If there is one thing I have learned from my 9 years of being a Mom, parenting is not like riding a bicycle. There is no mastery. I forget what I am doing and crash almost daily. Take for instance yesterday. It is appropriate that we started the school year with a paint party and finished with one. The first one the kids behaved badly. At this one, it was me. I know, I know, I know, after all of my righteous indignation over the little girls walking around judging whose hearts looked like they were “supposed to” and whose looked bad; I sat there being very grumpy that Lauren’s deer did not look like everyone else’s. What can I say? I got swept up in the completed piece sitting at the front of the class with it’s sweet little face, standing in the snow, speckled with spots. It was precious. I could just see it hanging over her bed. Alas, we came home with an entirely blue deer since Lauren’s deer was swimming. No snow. No sweet face.
I sat there, watching as everyone else went from the sky, to the outline of the deer, to the inside of the deer, the ground and the final touches. Lauren had wanted me to sit right by her, giving her confidence and protection from any outside forces that might hamper her mojo. Instead, she got this. “Don’t forget to put the blue lines where you want the sky to end like the teacher said so the blue doesn’t go down too far. Go ahead and outline your deer so you don’t loose it honey. Do you want the brown on your brush for that? “ I was a constant stream of suggestions. Soon, she had become timid with her brush strokes and was chewing her hair. I hate people standing over me when I paint. It is a process, one that often looks stupid while I am in the middle of it. I wouldn’t want over suggestive Mom hovering over me.
Soo, I went outside. I made the mistake in my foul mood of saying I had to leave because I couldn’t take it. Of course I got the subtle tisk-tisk from the Moms who were in full-blown Zen mode with their kids painting whatever and however they wanted (of course for every single one of them that included a brown deer with a sweet face, a blue sky and solid ground). I understand, I too have been the tisk-tisk Zen Mom. I have looked at high strung women and thought, “Life is too short to get all worked up over what your kid is painting. What is wrong with you? Lighten up. Let them have fun, that is what this is all about.” But for me, I realized, the fun wasn’t what it was all about. It was about Lauren being different. All year long she has struggled with not making friends because she is different. She struggles because the way she learns is different. The way she interprets the world is different. So of course, absolutely the way she paints is going to be different. But sometimes, I just want her to be like everybody else. I want everyone to look at her deer and see a brown deer. Not a blue silhouette of a deer splashing in an endless sea of blue where the sky and the water meet barely distinguished one from the other.
In the midst of my parent pity party, the little boy sitting next to Lauren looked at her picture and in complete earnest said, “I really like your sky. It isn’t like mine but I really like how you are doing it.”
I hate to admit I left the party still sulky even after that little boy poignantly delivered the Mom lesson I needed to hear. By the time I got home, I started to get some perspective. I started to see the beauty in this painting my 7 year old had done with nothing but blue and white. It wasn’t how I would have done it or how 20 other kids would have done it. It is totally different but just as beautiful. It isn’t easy to have a different child. You worry because the majority of people are never going to get them. But, some people do and that is worth more than 100 sweet-faced deer with browns coats and white speckles.