Last month the first grade project was building a diorama to display an animal of the student’s choice. My son came home all fired up to get started, and after I got him a shoebox, he pretty much went to town. He chose raptors, which is more of a group of animals than an animal, but that’s OK. He cut out a beautiful picture of a hawk-eagle from our zoo magazine, glued it to the back of the box, and then started busily writing raptor facts on pieces of paper. Over the course of the next couple of days, he also scribbled in a background and cut out fringed grass and a raptor to hang in the diorama itself. The next morning, he grabbed it on our way out the door.
“I’m ready to take it in,” he announced.
“What?” I said. “It’s not due for two and a half weeks. Let’s take it in another day.”
“No!” he said. “I want to take it in today. I want to be the first one done.”
This whole first-one-done compulsion aside, I hadn’t had a clue he was done. I had hardly even glanced at the (apparently) finished product. I hadn’t checked the spelling on his fact sheets, much less helped him to make it look artistic. (I’ve seen the work that some of his classmates have done on similar projects, and it looks like they’re either seriously crafty or their parents are. Let’s just say that in my DNA pool my sister got all the crafty genes. )
His diorama was awesome–because he’d done it himself and it was the way he wanted it–but at the same time, some of the ink had smeared where the glue had dried and the corners of his fact sheets weren’t neatly glued down. I thought we could, you know, woodshed it a little bit to make it look “even better,” as I carefully explained to him.
But we didn’t have time to talk any more about it. We had to leave so we wouldn’t be late for school. So we agreed that he would take it in and make his presentation that day, and then we could perfect it later. When we grabbed it after school a few days later and were looking at it at home, I suggested a few changes to the background. Maybe we could paint it green, or maybe we could paint the raptor itself, which was basically white printer paper with some pencil marks.
He shook his head, and then said, firmly, “If we do that, it’ll be YOUR project. And right now it’s mine.”
Welll….talk about having the sense talked into me by my own 7-year-old. He was right, of course. The way he had done it was great. It was so amazing that he’d been excited enough about it to take the initiative to do it on his own, and so early too. As a lifelong procrastinator, I found that part especially impressive. Why hadn’t I just been able to let it go and let it be just the way he wanted? He was proud of it, and his friends liked it. It was me that didn’t think it was good enough, and why? Because I didn’t want his teacher or the other parents to think that it wasn’t good enough. Because I thought that would reflect poorly on me.
What’s wrong with all of us? I often wonder when it comes to parenting. Why are we always so worried about what others think about us and about our parenting?
I wondered what God might think about the diorama. Probably God was delighted by the joy my son felt about his subject and the pleasure he took in putting it all together. I had a hard time thinking God would care about any unstuck corners or glue smears. So it would probably behoove me to try not to care too.
Every once in a while I start to wonder what it might be like to look at the world through God’s eyes–I imagine God would zero in a lot more on the beauty of a person rather than getting stuck where I so often do–on the clothes or the extra stuff, the frame rather than the picture. In this case, I’m working to see not the diorama but the small boy’s joy that shines through it.
Sometimes it’s the way we react to the little things that sets the tone for our lives. Maybe if I can get it right here, I’ll be able to do it better elsewhere.