I pulled into the drive after 4 hours of highway and a five-day recharge staycation at my mother’s. I sat in my car watching the trees sway in the breeze and asked God to give me whatever I needed for what was on the other side of that door. It was the quiet middle hours of the day where my family was out in the world. I soaked up the dog’s happy as I walked in the door and then took a deep breath as I rounded the corner of the kitchen and there is was, five days of my daughter’s creativity on every surface of my kitchen. I knew it would be there, I even tried to prepare myself for it, but my mind thrives on black letters on a white page and is an inadequate match for the colors that dance through my daughter’s mind.
I was met with an empty gallon of wood glue, a mysterious white powder dusting the drapes and floor, multiple shade of green paint on anything it would stick to, and my favorite bowl stuck to the table filled with what appeared to be murky swap water and split pea soup. I paced back and forth biting my nails for 10 mins and then dug in, chiseled the bowl off of the table and spent the next hour setting the room right again in an effort to keep the promise I made to myself – I will not let my perfectionism harness her.
It’s an interesting thing this parenting business. God blessed me with children that are so unlike me and at the same time so very much like me and somehow, we are supposed to know how to guide them to adulthood. I assumed having a daughter would feel natural, that I would say all the things that I wish had been said to me and things would be blissfully perfect. But most days I find myself stumped, face to face with a girl whose hair is wild, and hands and nails are always tinted with the hues of her latest creation. A girl that wears her clothes to bed because changing into pajamas would steal precious minutes from the book she is currently lost in.
I realize something this spring though as I listened to her teacher all but demand my daughter find her voice as my daughter sat there in silence. What the teacher meant is that my daughter should find the voice that other’s had, that she should match the world’s noise with her own, and that her quiet nature was a flaw to be fixed. I realized in that moment that it had officially begun for her and from this point forward most people in her life were going to tell her she should be different, she should be better, she should be like other people and I vowed I would not be one of them. I walked out of that classroom holding her hand as she fought back tears, knowing that her voice was bigger and louder than her teacher could imagine. It is on every surface of my kitchen, under her finger nails, in the carpet, and on her clothes.
I realized that I didn’t need to understand her but only to help her cultivate who she is. To protect her voice. To help her see that who God created her to be is all she ever needs to be. I never want her perfect to be bigger than her voice because perfect is a lie that silences too many of us. So, I clean up the messes and chisel off the surfaces and listen to her as she talks about colors, the feel of different mediums, and what she’ll try next time. When she creates she momentarily lays down her perfect, that little voice that plagues other areas of her life and tells her it could be better, and just goes for it.
When she jumped in the car last Tuesday she asked if I had seen the kitchen. I told her that I had and asked her what she was trying to create. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “I don’t know, something amazing.”
You’ll create it baby girl, just keep going, and I promise not to stand in your way.