Many years ago, my one year old daughter and I attended a Mommy and Me class. At the end of each class, there was an art project to be done by the mother and the child. One day, Teacher Kathy told us to use paints and markers to create little handmade plates. The plates were supposed to be keepsakes. The teacher showed us a few examples of well designed plates from past classes, but they looked way too perfect, so of course I asked, “Are the moms painting the plates? Or are the kids doing their own art work?”
The teacher laughed out loud. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “It’s YOUR child. It’s YOUR choice.”
That was brilliant advice that has shaped the way I parent my children to this very day.
In my mommy and me class, there were crafty moms who created artistically perfect keepsakes with their child’s name and handprint. There were frantic moms who ran after their toddlers while begging them to place a painted hand on the middle of the plate. There were uninterested moms who chatted with other moms while the plate remained a blank slate.
And then, there was me. My child. My choice. So I said to my daughter, “paint the plate anyway you like.”
12 years have passed and we still have that plate. It’s a hodgepodge of colorful markings and paint splatters and fingerprints and to be quite honest, it’s a mess, but it’s HER mess. It is an adequate representation of her one year old self.
My child. My choice.
My children are not perfect. They never have been. They never will be. From the beginning, I have forced them to be okay with imperfection. I refuse to do my child’s homework. So no, my children are not coming to school with Pinterest worthy projects. Their school projects look messy and imperfect. You know, like they were completed by a child. And yes, they get upset when they see the super intricate perfectly crafted artwork done to perfection. In those instances, I do my best to explain that they will be graded for their effort and for their hard work. The teachers have never marked my children down for handing in an age appropriate project. Teachers know what a 7 year old is capable of.
My child. My choice.
There is pride in ownership and I have seen my imperfect children work hard to make themselves proud. No two children are the same. One of my children will outline her schedule and make a calendar for the completion of her project. I have another child who will wait until 24 hours before the deadline and bang it out like a crazed lunatic. The truth is: there is NO right way.
There is no right way to parent. There is no right way to complete a project. There is just this amazing little nugget of wisdom that Teacher Kathy shared with me over a decade ago.
“It’s YOUR child. It’s YOUR choice.”
Claudine Cooper is a Los Angeles based fitness trainer with over 20 years of professional experience. Originally from Minneapolis, this busy wife and mother is committed to sharing her passion for healthy living. You can follow her on Instagram @fitwit3.
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