Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Rock, A Mess, And A Back To School Wish

While he did not inherit my hair color, eye color, or complexion, my oldest son definitely got my early morning tendencies. But while I require some silent, solo time with a cup of coffee and a 4-mile run to ease into the day, he jumps right in with a splashy cannonball, needing to immediately vocalize every thought that popped into his head overnight.

In the spirit of compromise and an effort to preserve my sanity, we've made a deal that no matter what time he gets up, he has to stay in his room until 7am. You can more or less set your watch to the opening of his door, except on days where he is absolutely exhausted, in which case he has been known to snooze all the way to 7:03.

This summer we've fallen into a pretty blissful morning routine: he gets up, makes himself breakfast if I'm still exercising, and then we read some Harry Potter together on the couch. When my post-workout stink becomes unbearable, I head up to shower and he heads to the playroom to find an art project to work on until his younger siblings wake up.

Unfortunately, he also inherited my complete and total lack of any artistic ability.

Left: "Giraffe" by Mona Shand, circa 1979; Right: "Zebra" by Noah Shand, 2013

But I give the kid props: he's completely undeterred by this fact, and has spent a good portion of the making crafts. He now knows how to navigate Pinterest and search for things like "Easy Construction Paper Projects" or "Things To Do With Popsicle Sticks," which are of course cross-referenced under "Stuff Moms Throw Out When Kids Are Not Looking."

One day during this penultimate summer week, it was rock painting that he settled on. I consider it a sign of my love, confidence, and deep-seeded trust in him that I left him alone downstairs with what many consider to be a weapon of mass domestic destruction: glitter glue.

20 minutes later, I came back down to find a rock covered in globs of glitter and a very proud 8-year-old. "It has a secret message written on it!" he said excitedly, as I squinted to decipher the shiny streaks. Maybe it was in cursive? Or Mandarin? Or cursive Mandarin? Not wanting to heap false praise upon the thing, I told him it was an interesting use of color.

But 5 minutes later his glee had turned to dismay; it seems in attempting to move the rock, he had smudged his work beyond repair. "IT'S RUINED! IT'S A BIG GIANT MESS!!!" he wailed. Unsure of how to respond (and trying not to burn the pancakes), I kept my mouth shut and left him to deal with his artistic crisis on his own.

A few minutes passed and he came back, even more proud than before, the smudged streaks all gone, the entire surface of the rock now shining and shimmering in the light.

"Hey mom- check it out: I turned my mess into something great!" he said, and then bolted up the stairs, leaving me with the rock.

I keep hearing about how kids today lack resilience, how they are coddled and cuddled to the point where they feel entitled to success, and are utterly unprepared for the inevitable failures that come with being human. They hashtag all day long about the struggle being real, but the fact is, too few have actually done much in the way of struggling, or reaping the benefits of that fight.

I find it terrifying.

I watched the sunlight dance across the different colors on that rock and it reminded me of so many hopes I have for my kids: that they will grow to be strong and grounded; that they may find beauty where others see none; that they will learn to shine on their own, and not look to anyone else to light them up; that they will realize that our greatest accomplishments often rise from our greatest mistakes.

And so while it may sound odd, but as my kids start this new school year I wish them success, but also failure.

I wish them happiness, but also difficulty.

I wish them luck, both good and bad.

I wish them messes that turn into something great.

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