What if we just went about our daily business wearing things like slightly small princess outfits if it struck our fancy? Another princess dress as well as two different ballerina outfits have all spent a little time being worn by Penny today. I like it. I wish I did that. Mike would come in and there I’d be, washing dishes in my Cinderella dress. Later, he’d walk past and I’d be busily changing a diaper in my pink ballerina tu-tu. Life would be pretty good.
The only way it could be any better would be if, instead of washing dishes and changing diapers in those outfits, I was drawing pictures. Pictures like this:
I do think Penny is the grandest little four year old artist to have ever existed. I mean scissors? Turkeys? Hot-Air balloons? And I love her attention to feet and shoes while arms don’t interest her in the slightest and are just tossed on, in after-thought fashion, as blobs.
Speaking of drawing: that is one of those activities that make you feel like a good mom if your child is participating, possibly even excelling in them. Happily reading little picture books, excitedly allowing you to quiz them on alphabet letters, etc. When your child is doing those things you sort of tend to feel like, “I am doing A-OK at this mom business”.
But I have been realizing lately that, perhaps, I have been a bit close minded in my ideas of what a child should want to do and what a child should enjoy and be good at to make ME feel like a good mom.
Jesse, that wild boy of mine, views the world and approaches it altogether differently than I ever have and a fair amount differently than any of his siblings. He is a bright boy. In fact, he actually knew all his alphabet letters and sounds much earlier than his siblings, but truly he has zero interest in little rewarding mother moments like “school time”. He’d rather gauge his eye out than have me play games with him trying to get him to learn something on paper. Coloring is an utter waste of time, and, when he’s forced to do it in primary, he, to the dismay of his teachers, simply tosses his pictures in the garbage on his way out of class. I sometimes try to trick him into doing something on paper just because, at some point, the kid will need to learn to write and coloring seems the usual precursor. Reading books is something mostly only to be tolerated when the time must somehow be passed while he gets his nightly asthma meds nebulized into his little self. It has been tricky because, as I said, having my kids do those things makes me feel good about myself.
But what about his interests? What about the things he is actually incredibly good at? They tend to be harder to appreciate simply because they often end up with something lying broken on the floor. It’s tricky to think, “Man, I am a great mom for letting my kid break that blender.” But there is, truly, something to be said for his breaking of things. He has no ill intent. Often, when he has just broken something, he will pause, study my face for a minute and ask, “Mom, are you sad?” When I reply that yes, I am indeed sad because he just broke something he says, “Come here mom and I’ll give you a kiss.” And with that he goes back to his broken item with a “there, we are square again” attitude. And, in fact, there is nothing that brings him more joy than “fixing” something. It may well be that, years from now, I’ll be bragging about my son who, while his father was out of town, fixed our fridge that went out all on his own.
The other day he opened the washing machine and said, in frustration, as it churned the clothes in water, “Mom, what makes it stop? And why does the water go out?” And I thought to myself, “Those questions are exactly what this boy of mine is all about." – He is all about figuring out every single thing in this world; how it works, why it works, how to take it apart or put it back together. Toys don’t interest him ever for long because they don’t hold the fascination that the real working things of our every day life hold. Of course things like the back of my blow dryer must be taken off. There is something in there that seems to make the whole thing blow hot air out, and how else will he discover what it is? The other day Mike handed him one of his drill batteries and told him it needed charging. “Watch,” Mike said to me, “He’ll have this figured out in about one second.” And sure enough, a moment later he had studied and twisted and turned the awkward shaped battery until it was hooked fast in the charger.
I’d left that screw driver over by the back door leading into the garage (intending to take it out to Mike’s tool box). Jesse must have found it there, studied it for a moment, thought about my bedroom door and some small matching part that could have some connection with this tool, and off he went. Sure enough, a few moments later one screw was out and he was busily working on the next one:
See. It’s easy to look at that and think, “Oh crud. My son just unscrewed the door latch off the jamb”. But I am trying harder to think, “Holy smokes! What a cool kid! How many three year olds would find a screw driver and, with no direction, figure that out?” I am realizing that he truly does have some pretty awesome little abilities and that I might learn a lot by seeing the world more often through his curious little eyes. If, on the side, I can trick him into enjoying drawing the occasional picture, great, if not, well, I have a feeing he is developing plenty of other talents as he takes my house apart piece by piece around me!