As a former teacher for 9 years, there is something about going "back to school" that still gets me excited and anxious for the first day of school. This year, though I am not in the classroom anymore, my son started school. It's a pretty big deal when your firstborn leaves the house and now goes to school.
He's been loving it and has a huge smile everyday. I have no idea what he's doing everyday since he doesn't tell us much. Thankfully his teachers post photos on ClassDojo and give us an update every few days. And based on his school uniform coming home in different colors of paint, we can usually guess which days they paint at school.
I'd been dying to get into his classroom and have some fun with the 16 three-year-olds, so a couple weeks ago I volunteered to read a book and do an activity with the kids. Since we live in Mexico, the school is bilingual, though most kids come in not knowing any or much English. I read "One Sheep Blue Sheep" in English, asked clarifying questions in Spanish. (It always makes me realize how lucky our kids are growing up perfectly fluent in both English and Spanish!)
Since RED was the color of the week, we finger painted some red sheep after we read the story (thanks to my mom for helping me find the preschool activity!). And finger painting with 3 year olds was just what you can expect - MESSY! Red paint everywhere, some kids literally just took their entire hands and smeared them in the paint and on the paper. Whereas Max, who had already painted a sheep the night before at home with me, was much more interested in helping Mommy than painting his sheep.
Max was a great helper and that's what I should have let him be. But no, I confess, I had one of those crazy mom moments. I wanted his painting to at least get halfway finished. So I got two of my fingers painted and started painting my 3 year old's sheep while he just looked around the room. After about 12 seconds of trying to "fix" Max's painting as he was clearly not interested in making his sheep look like a sheep, I had a sudden pang of guilt.
"What was I doing? It doesn't even matter what his sheep looks like. It doesn't have to be perfect." I was so embarrassed by my own behavior. And I fear this may be only the first of many times I get in the way and try to "fix" something for my kids.
I just read "Daring Greatly" by Brene Brown and was blown away by so many truths for my own life based on her research on vulnerability, shame and perfectionism. And when it comes to parenting she really encourages parents to let your kids struggle, make mistakes and learn to problem solve on their own.
The "red sheep" example from preschool was hardly a struggle, but I know there's plenty of struggles to come as Maxwell and Zoe grow up. And there will be many times that I want to step in and fix whatever is happening, whether it's something as simple as painting a picture for Max or something much bigger as dealing with adversity with his peers.
I need to remember that it doesn't have to be perfect. Life is not perfect. And we will always be questioning our decisions as parents, but the quote that hits home from "Daring Greatly" is this:
“The question isn't so much, Are you parenting the right way? as it is: Are you the adult you want your child to grow up to be?” - Brene Brown
So may I remember that the choices we make and the lives we choose to live are much higher indicators of how our children will turn out than any style of parenting we choose to embrace. There are always little eyes watching and little ears listening, so next time I decide to do some finger-painting with Max, I'm gonna embrace the messy and abstract looking sheep that he chooses to paint, because it doesn't really matter. It doesn't have to be perfect. And what matters is the time we spend together.