My yoga instructor, Carrie, recently told a story about her son. When he was a toddler she was working with him in the room, filling out paperwork and organizing checks – lots of checks. The phone rang and she took 5 steps away from the table, grabbed the phone and took 5 steps back. In that time her son had found the scissors she’d inadvertently left within her son’s reach and cut up ALL the checks. I gasped when she told this story and immediately knew my reaction would have been an upset, shocked, “Aria! NO, NO, NO!”. I would have grabbed the scissors away, not only frustrated but scared at her use and access to something so potentially dangerous. Carrie, though, chose to look at the situation in a different light – her son had used scissors for the first time and had handled them safely and efficiently. He didn’t know that the paper he was cutting up was valuable, only that he’d done something new and different and was proud of it. She allowed him that moment of pride in himself and chose to be proud too.
Her point with this story was that we can all react to the unexpected by getting upset or angry or whatever, or…we can be creative and choose a different way to react. Until recently my creative parenting had been lacking quite a bit. I’ve been much more geared toward the upset reaction than anything else with the upheavals of late – moving plus being tired and emotional from the pregnancy, and my patience had been wearing very thin. Apart from that, I haven’t been as creative with our activities since moving to the new area and have succumbed instead to using TV as entertainment for her and a chance to rest for me. When I came out of the bathroom a few weeks ago to find this, I had the perfect chance to react to the situation creatively. Alas, even as I thought to myself that this is what Carrie meant when she talked about creative parenting, I cried out in shock and disbelief at what I was seeing; I was not yet in a frame of mind to find that creative reaction within myself. In that moment Aria was so excited to paint and didn’t realize the damage done. Conversely, I saw only the damage and not the artist before me. Once the moment passed, though, I saw that I had taken that excitement from her and instead made her feel bad…she apologized over and over that afternoon, breaking my heart a little more each time.
Since that moment I’ve tried to actively change both my thinking and my actions, not being so concerned with the mess but allowing her to explore new activities and materials. This is a challenge for me. Just today she was using markers for the first time in a long time and loving every minute of it; I sat by, watchful, thinking to myself what a mess they were and how she just got marker on her only good pair of pajamas. Still, I chose not to grab the markers and immediately undress her and try to get the marker out, as the voice within was urging me to do; instead I looked at how much fun she was having, took a deep breath and allowed her that experience and the mess that came with it and I did so in a manner that let the potential stress of that moment go. I’m trying to do this more and more and really, it’s so much more fun, even if her wardrobe is needing replaced at a much faster rate.
So, I’m making prograss though there’s still more to do. I’m trying to turn off the TV and draw or play or read with her, even when so tired but I need to come up with some new activities for us – break out the paints that stay hidden 95% of the time, but which she absolutely loves, and not be so concerned with the mess, get out of the house more – to the park or swimming. Granted, all of these are more challenging as I get more and more pregnant, but I want to focus on building up the girl in front of me – the love of my life that is so full of life and creativity and curiosity and so desperately wants interaction and new challenges and experiences – while we have this time alone. These moments are not to be wasted. I’ll still be able to get ready for the new little one and if all is not done or there’s a little extra mess, well, that’s OK too.