art · independence · slice of life

A Parenting Lesson

I dragged myself out of bed this morning. I promised Marc I’d take Isabelle out so he could complete a work-related project. But I was sick.  Not pneumonia sick, but flu-like body ache sick. Sore throat sick.  Massive headache sick.  I knew I could back out, but I didn’t have to heart to do so.


painting on what may have been layer number five
Halfway through our day out together, Isabelle and I found ourselves painting pottery. Isabelle insisted on painting a mug for Grandma. She picked three colors and began painting. Eventually she dipped her green brush into my white paint. I implored her to rinse her brushes, going-forward, before dipping her brush into my paint.
30 minutes and eight colors after she began painting Grandma’s mug, she was swirling color upon color, layering the glaze so thick.  I noticed some non-glazed spots.
“You should paint those,” I said pointing at them.
“I don’t want to,” she replied.
“But the handle needs some paint on it.”
She looked at me, annoyed, “Don’t tell me what to do.”
“You’re right.  It’s your project for Grandma, not mine.  I’m going to mind my own business and get back to painting my bowl for Bubbe.”
“Good,” Isabelle said.
I learned something from this interaction. And maybe I wouldn’t have if I was feeling better. Perhaps I would’ve pressed her to paint those empty spots (or would’ve done it myself) if I didn’t feel so sick. Instead, I stopped bossing my child around and let her continue her art project. It may have 11 layers of glaze and some non-painted spots, but it is her project. She’s proud of it.  And she should be.  (The only thing I helped with was writing “For Grandma. Love, Isabelle. 2015” on the bottom of the mug.)  When she gives that messily-painted mug to my mother-in-law it’ll be her own creation, which I know will make her proud.
Lesson learned.  Sometimes I have to butt out!

23 thoughts on “A Parenting Lesson

  1. You are catching on to this mother-game really well even if you are not feeling all that well! I tried to fix things for my kids lots of times, to make them fit my image of perfection. My daughter, the strong and powerful one, always told me to stop. I eventually stopped trying to make their lives perfect and let them learn to live and grow with mistakes and imperfections. It took me a while too. It took me a strong daughter too!

  2. Oh my! If only I could learn this in just one incident! It is a constant battle and to the point that sometimes my daughter says…. I don’t like doing (crafts) with you because you don’t let me do it! It’s a great lesson to learn. You are ahead of me on this one!

  3. It is so hard not to add our two cents. You are right, though. This was Isabelle’s project and it looked just the way she wanted it to. That is all that matters. I’m sure her grandmother will treasure it.

  4. So true. Just an with teaching in the classroom, sometimes I think we just need to shut up, get out of the way and let kids figure it out. Then real learning can happen!! And no matter what, that mug is going to be a work of art because Isabelle is the maker of it!

  5. I’m not a mom, but I can totally relate. You want it to look nice. You know what she’s missing. So you tell her, but she has her own ideas. I’m sure it was hard to let her decide how to do it, but I’m glad you did. She’s learning to make her own path in life, one painted mug at a time! 🙂

  6. This reminds me exactly of a writing conference with a student! So often we think they should add some detail that WE think is important. Unfortunately, for the most part, our students don’t give the much needed advice that Isabelle gave her mommy. Instead, they take our ideas and very quickly their writing turns into our writing! We need to learn the “butt out” lesson!!

    1. I love that you likened this to a conference, Carrie. I would never grab the pen and tell a child how to write. I suppose that’s why I need to back off as a mom too. Thank you for making that connection for me.

  7. I still struggle with this. I just want them to do it “my way”. I forget that for my boys to learn what “their way” is, I have to give them the opportunity to find it. Which means I have to “butt out”!

  8. It’s good to get some perspective from a teacher parent. I don’t have kids yet, but I tremble at the thought of being an overbearing parent. We tell kids what to do all day for a job! How do we step back at home???

  9. LOL 4 is full of independence! Years ago, my niece started playing hockey and my sis-in-law was only to happy to be on the ice with her for every practice and game. (This was a requirement for that age group.) My niece HATED it. She cried every week about going. But, they’d made the commitment and felt she needed to learn to follow through and not quit. One week, her mom had a work commitment so grandpa went to hockey. At the end, M said to him, “I like hockey now! Can you come with me every week?” It was a real wake up for her mom.
    I have to teach art to my classes, and I am not a serious artist so I know I teach differently that someone who is. I give my students lots of freedom to make things their way. I had an ed assistant one year walk in and make a student start over! I was devastated! He had painted an orange somethingorother and he was so proud of having done it alone. She told him he had too much white and needed more colours, then she proceeded to add all sorts of stuff to it. It was present for Father’s Day, and she totally took over. I’ve played that over and over in my head because I regret not telling her to mind her own business. 🙂

  10. Sure hope you feel better soon. Your precious daughter has provided me with some wise insight, especially when working with students in writing. It does not matter if “I” think it’s perfect. I can guide and advise. I have wisdom to share. Ultimately it is their writing, not mine, to be proud of, bumps, holes, and all.

    1. I’ll tell ya… it wasn’t like I was sitting there artist-to-artist. I was directing. Her comments made me stop. If I had been artist-to-artist, then I could’ve given pointers. Maybe it’s the way we approach the way we work with our kids… just like we confer writer-to-writer rather than teacher-to-student, perhaps our kids need to see that we’re coming from a similar place if we want to teach them (rather than tell them what to do).

  11. My mom just went through the mug cabinet over the summer and got rid of some of the ones we didn’t really use– the cabinet was overflowing. She couldn’t bear to throw away the handpainted ones from when we were really little, however.. they’re too precious and bring back such good times.
    On a side, note, LOVE the matching bow and dress. Really, really cute 🙂

  12. It is so hard to stop what we think is creative to become someone else’s creative. I have had the same thing at school with Art lessons and now I give them a “brief” they have to follow and the rest is all theirs. We are both happy. I’m sure grandma loved the mug. 🙂

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