Yesterday, as I was dusting a long-neglected shelf in Emerald’s room, I came upon some knickknacks I hadn’t thought about in a long time:
I remembered where those puppies came from. Five and a half years ago, we were planning Emerald’s fifth birthday party. We thought it might be fun to paint pottery for her party. But before booking the party, we wanted to make sure it was something she would enjoy. So Jim, Emerald, and I headed to the local paint-your-own pottery place to give it a try. We selected puppies and sat down to paint.
While I dusted yesterday, I really started thinking when I recognized which one I had painted. The purple puppy with the green dots.
I marveled at my color choice. It was so unlike me. Why had I chosen to paint this dog a totally unrealistic color instead of black or brown or white, or some combination of these (non)colors? And why the green dots and green ears?
Although I have always enjoyed bright-colored clothes, dangly earrings, and bold patterns, I am (or at least used to be) a rather structured person. I am the person who arranged all of my glasses in my cabinet facing the same direction, the flowers pointing outward (that is until my mom pointed out how “Sleeping with the Enemy” this was of me).
I also used to hang my towels over the towel rack so that there was an equal portion hanging down on each side. Actually, I still do, but it’s not a big enough deal to expect others to do the same, especially children. Heck, I’m happy if they just hang the towel back up rather than leaving it on the floor!:)
So back to yesterday. I looked at that cute little puppy and I wondered why had I gone so out of my norm. And then I realized that I was comparing my choice with the puppy to my predilections B.C. — before children. But this was painted not only after I had Emerald, but with her. I suddenly remembered choosing the off-the-wall coloring to catch my beloved daughter’s attention. To make a point that couldn’t be made as well with words.
A brown puppy would tell her puppies come in brown. A purple and green dotted puppy tells her the sky is the limit. You can do anything you imagine. Your art doesn’t have to reflect what is actually on earth. It can reflect whatever is in your head, or in your heart.
We had been careful not to put any restrictions on her creativity from the time she was a baby. If she colored all over the page or painted over the same spot in so many colors the whole thing turned brown, that was fine with us. It was her creation.
I remember being so surprised when she was in Kindergarten and her teacher kept harping on her coloring. She didn’t fill all the white space and didn’t stay inside the lines. We had never suggested she should do either because prior to that point, we thought of coloring as an expression of herself and we didn’t think we should tell her to stay within the lines.
Little did we know that it is a developmental stage, a milestone they are looking for in Kindergarten. Now I let Sapphire color any way she wants, most of the time, but every once in a while I will explain that in Kindergarten they will want her to color within the lines and take up all the space. I’ll ask her to try it. She does it well when I ask, but she’d rather not. And that’s OK with me.
My thoughts turned to Emerald’s second grade year when I used to volunteer in her class every week, helping the students with creative writing. My first time in the room, the teacher asked me to address the students and explain what we were going to do. I gave an example of a possible beginning of a story. It had something to do with a person who walked on clouds, I believe.
One student commented, “That’s not possible.”
“That’s the beauty of creative writing (fiction), it doesn’t have to be,” I explained.
It took the kids a couple of times, but they started to demonstrate amazing imaginations and creativity. They just needed someone to unlock that door and tell them it was OK to go outside the lines.
That playful purple puppy reminded me yesterday of all I have learned from — and for — my children. I’ve learned to choose my battles and go with the flow. I’ve learned to loosen up (or at least to try to) and let the impossible become possible.
That puppy brings a smile to my face as she tells me that I may be an old dog, but I’m still learning new tricks. I hope I always will.
Have you learned anything interesting about yourself lately?
On another note: I wish a very happy milestone birthday to my wonderful mother-in-law, Mary. We’re so glad you will be here to celebrate your special day!!