One day, my son came home from school and handed me this drawing:
“Mom, we learned about Vincent Van Gogh in art class today!” he said.
“Wow!” I replied. “Is this like Starry Night?”
“Kinda — that’s me and Vincent Van Gogh!”
My eyes dart to Van Gogh’s hand. “Oh, dear Lord, no! PLEASE tell me that is not his EAR! Should I ask? Do I dare?” I had to.
“And what’s that?” I asked tentatively, pointing to the object on the plate. I braced for the answer.
“Pizza!” my son exclaimed. “That’s me (pointing to first purple stick figure), giving Van Gogh $5.00 to buy a slice of pizza!”
“Pizza, huh? [whew! it’s not an ear!] Did Vincent Van Gogh love pizza, just like you?”
“No, Mom! Van Gogh was always spending his money on art supplies, so I thought I would give him some money to buy food!”
My eyes welled up.
“It’s beautiful, honey!” And I promptly taped it up on the wall.
As a mother, I often feel like all of the hard work I am pouring into molding my children is for naught. I feel like a broken record, like they don’t get the lessons I am trying to teach (some super simple, really, like don’t. hit. your. brother.). I start to wonder if it’s worth it, if my time with them has been meaningful and beneficial. Or not? Then my son brings home a picture he made at school that clearly and tenderly illustrates the values of generosity, thoughtfulness, and compassion that I so diligently try to instill, and it makes me want to fall to my knees in gratitude.
YES, my parenting is working! They DO hear me, even if it may not seem so, even if it may take 100, no, 1000 times of modeling, discussing, and reminding! I felt hopeful; rejuvenated. Proud.
Sometimes all it takes is a drawing from a 6-year-old.
Recently, my son burst through the door after Tae Kwon Do class, his eyes red, his cheeks wet from crying. “What happened?” I asked, alarmed. “Are you hurt?”
“No, I’m fine. I, just, I…I threw a water bottle out of the car window, Mommy!” And he burst into tears.
With one glance at my husband, I knew that they had already ‘discussed’ the dangers and repercussions of my son’s action.
I hugged him tight. “You’ll never throw anything out of the car window again, right?” I asked softly.
“I promise I won’t! Never!” he sobbed.
(I sure hoped not. There have been times I have thought my youngest son’s pet blankie would get tossed by big brother out into the wind. I hoped this might be the event to prevent that from ever happening. My fear was slightly allayed…)
As part of his consequences, my husband made my son look-up on the computer how long it took a plastic bottle to decompose: 450 years.
“450 years!” My son was aghast. “Dad, we have to go back and get it!”
My husband, God love him, obliged. He grabbed his keys, loaded my son back into the car, and drove him back to the scene of the crime.
They retrieved the water bottle, and brought it back home, crumpled and soiled. They placed it on a paper towel on the kitchen island for a while before I tossed it into the recycling can, maybe as a silent reminder of… carelessness tempered by love?
That’s all I want my children to know, really. It all comes down to love. Love for their family, love for starving strangers, love for the Earth.
A crayon picture of kindess.
True remorse about littering.
How affirming it is to see that my children actually are absorbing my lessons in love.
(This post reminds me of “The Cost of Hope” by Rachel Macy Stafford over at Hand’s Free Mama — http://www.handsfreemama.com/2013/08/27/the-cost-of-hope/. Our children truly are the love and light of the future!)