Collaboration

Over the weekend I came across this story featuring an artist mother who lets her four-year-old finish her sketches. On purpose. Not at first, I think, but as any parent knows, the shortest family members are the ones who really wear the pants.

{image via huffingtonpost}

The pictures are a little jarring and crazy at first, but pleasantly familiar to anyone with pencil-wielding kids. Once you soak in the gestalt of the whole thing, these mashups are strangely beautiful, as if this was how it was always meant to be.

So many lessons in this, and so well articulated by the mom:

  • Try not to be so rigid. Yes, some things (like my new sketchbook) are sacred, but if you let go of those chains, new and wonderful things can happen. Those things you hold so dear cannot change and grow and expand unless you loosen your grip on them a little.
  • In sharing my artwork and allowing my daughter to be an equal in our collaborations, I helped solidify her confidence, which is way more precious than any doodle I could have done. In her mind, her contributions were as valid as mine (and in truth, they really were).
  • Most importantly, I learned that if you have a preconceived notion of how something should be, YOU WILL ALWAYS BE DISAPPOINTED. Instead, just go with it, just ACCEPT it, because usually, something even more wonderful will come out of it.

So much of what I think it means to be a good parent comes down to how well I think I can control my children. Whether or not they follow the family rules. Whether a meltdown does or does not occur in the cereal aisle. Whether they’re nice to grown-ups or mean to each other. Whether or not they obey like good little trained beings.

I needed this reminder that so much of this raising-kids thing is collaborative; that they teach me as much, if not more, than I teach them. That, even if it’s in the form of a temper tantrum, their contributions are valid. Because they are valid. How many times have I invalidated them in the name of listening to mommy? They are as important, as loved, as complex, as necessary. And what may seem like a mess at first is really beauty in the making.

Take a look at the whole gallery if you have time. Incredibly endearing.

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