This is the third in our series on creative parenting that was published two years ago on another blog. Insh’Allaah, we will be continuing on with new posts, hoping to make this a regular feature of Wide Earth!
It seems a simple truth that for every lesson I teach my children, they teach me another, unique lesson. This was the case last week, as I sat typing at my computer as my six-year-old daughter. Maryam came into the room and started rummaging around for paper and pencil. I didn’t ask her what she was doing, I simply ripped out a piece of notebook paper and gave it to her, along with something to draw with. As I continued typing, she put the paper on a hardcover book lay down on the floor on her stomach, knees bent, her feet waving in the air.
A few minutes later Mu’aadh, my eight-year-old son, knocked and entered my room. He tossed himself down on the rug and started humming to himself. Just as his tuneless humming was about to drive me batty, Maryam invited him to come and draw with her. He didn’t commit himself, but sat down next to her and they began a whispered conversation that was much less annoying than his humming had been. I continued working as they talked, and soon I noticed Mu’aadh getting down the box of crayons and colored pencils from Grandma Gretchen.
“You have to draw the tree, it isn’t right without the tree,” said Mu’aadh. More whispers, then, “You draw the tree if you want the tree.”
“Where’s the red? I need the red.” The sound of fingers dragging through crayons. “Here, this is sort of red, or maybe sort of maroonish-peachish.” I paused, thinking, “Maroonish-peachish??” Not two colors I would have ever thought to associate with each other.
“You color that part, I’m coloring this part.”
“We can both color it, see?”
After a blessed half-an-hour or so, I was proudly presented with a drawing of our house. It was small, in the background, and indeed no tree had been placed where the tree in reality existed. The foreground of the picture was taken up with a riot of colors–reds, greens, blues. I searched for the “maroonish-peachish” but failed to find it. Not wanting to seem dense, I didn’t ask what the colors represented.
Instead I looked at the picture from different angles. Then I had it. The beautiful jubilation of color in front of the house was the field of garbage where our neighbors all dumped their trash–brightly colored plastic bags, wrappers of all description, vegetable peelings, whatever they had to get rid of. This same field of trash had upset and annoyed me on and off for months. Yet Mu’aadh and Maryam had made it look pretty, almost like a field of flowers in full bloom.
Later, on the roof, I looked down on the garbage field. It still looked ugly to me. Then I thought of the children, and how they could see beauty in it, enough beauty that they felt they had to put it to paper. Always willing to learn a lesson and nurture my inner child, I scrunched up my eyes a bit, and looked again. Instead of looking at each individual piece of trash, I tried to let my mind see what Maryam and Mu’aadh had seen. In the end, I decided their picture was better than the field of garbage could ever look, but I was thankful for the reminder, gently given by my little ones, of the beauty that can be found in almost anything, if we take the time and make the effort to see it.