On Wednesday afternoon I danced along the fine edge of parenthood we all have, the one that separates the parent you can be from the fallible adult you are. I do a fair job keeping my foibles and neuroses from affecting the way I parent. Like almost everyone else, I keep out that which I don’t want them to model with the help of a self-made retaining wall–but the Hero of Haarlem is proof that doesn’t always work. What you try to keep out will find a crack and trickle in. As a parent, it’s my job to see the leak and plug it.
I was helping Mikey with his picture of an allosaurus attacking a triceratops when Nicholas reached across the coffee table and reached for the pastels. He wanted them because he watched me explain to Mikey how they work, how you can shade and blend and mix to make color progressions and all around awesomeness.
“Nicholas, please don’t. Use your crayons, please.” He looked disappointed; he wanted to be like his big brother. I wanted to avoid a mess; I didn’t want them to get on the carpet or sofa. I didn’t want them to break or wear down. He reached for them again, and I sighed.
“Nicholas,” and I paused, trying to think of a nice way to say don’t touch my stuff. I couldn’t figure out a way to say please don’t touch my pastels from college, the ones I used one semester 19 years ago, the ones we found last summer buried under decades worth of memories in your grandparent’s storage unit. Please don’t touch those.
I felt ashamed.
Search for cracks. Find the leak. Plug the dyke.
When we were kids, my youngest brother and I used to roshambo over who would swipe the knife across a new tub of margarine. Neither one of us wanted to do it–it looked nice and new and pretty with it’s little dollop on top. After the first swipe, we could care less. Smart Balance for everyone! But there was something about that first swipe. Same thing with new clothing, or socks and underwear. I used to buy what I needed and then continue to wear my ratty t-shirts and socks into oblivion. I wanted my new stuff to stay new as long as possible. I thought I was over that silliness but, so it would seem, pastels bring out the cray-cray in me.
“You know what, Nicholas, go ahead and use the pastels. Use the q-tips and cotton balls like mama showed Mikey. And use these, too. These are called oil pastels, and you can blend them with your fingers.”
A happy Nicholas started coloring, and Mikey continued outlining his picture of a dinosaur, and I got up to stretch my back and crack my knees because sitting on the floor to color for more than an hour is almost as hard as parenting. The picture of Nicholas and me dancing underneath a layer of pastels (and crayons and pencils and charcoal) is worth the achy joints.