Childhood is coloring outside the lines. It’s finding perfection in the imperfect. It is letting your child learn and grow in the best way they know how…guiding them along the way but not expecting it to be “inside the lines.”
She handed over her Hello Kitty coloring page to me, a smile that stretched ear to ear and her chest puffed out so far I thought she might explode.
The picture was beautiful…I could tell she had spent a lot of time working on it, meticulously choosing her crayons and doing everything she could to make it “perfect”…
To color inside the lines.
And at 3 years old, she had done a nearly impeccable job. I applauded her and oohed and ahhhed at how impressive it was she had not colored outside the lines.
But it got me thinking about how inappropriate our expectations for children so often are.
How we expect them “color inside the lines” in so many facets of life and often forget what childhood is really about.
I remember so clearly when my second daughter, Hazel, was born. Overnight, I expected my first-born (who was 2 at the time) to behave like a 10-year-old. She was supposed to be quiet when I was putting the baby to bed. Wait patiently while I was nursing. Be gentle and never get jealous.
WHAT WAS I THINKING?
I’ll tell you – I was thinking that my sweet, innocent child was going to fit into some mold of perfection I had created in my mind, based on my own skewed ideas of what life with two was going to be like…based on magazines plastered with families full of smiles…based on tv shows that made me believe perfection was attainable.
All the while, I was missing out on the perfection that was right in front of my eyes.
Being a child is about messing up. It’s about exploring.
Childhood is going outside in your brand spanking new white pants and doing cartwheels over and over until you’ve fallen so many times, your pants are now brown.
Childhood is losing your temper because your sister took your favorite toy and saying you are sorry…learning that these emotions are real and intense and okay to have. But sometimes it’s not okay to act on them.
Childhood is running in the rain and splashing in the puddles.
Childhood is being excited that you got dressed by yourself…even if your shirt is on backward and your pants don’t match.
Childhood is perfectly unperfect.
And yet we push our children to these standards of perfection. We want them to color inside the lines even when we know they aren’t wired that way.
Please understand – I’m not saying we don’t teach our children right from wrong or even that we shouldn’t send them to school and expect them to learn their Kindergarten sight words, along with math, reading, and spelling. Our kids have to learn these things and need to be able to function in the real world.
I’m only suggesting, to you….but especially to me, that we are more forgiving.
That we remember our children are not robots.
They are bound to make mistakes…they are doing exactly what childhood is all about. What life is all about when you really think about it.
They are figuring out what they love. And what they don’t. Who they can trust. And who they can’t. They are seeing just how far their little minds and bodies can take them. Just what they are capable of.
They are learning how to be kind. How to be a good friend. How to find good friends.
How to march to their own beat while not stepping out of line too much. How to color you a beautiful picture… even if it is outside the lines.
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