I pulled up a chair next to my son at our dining room table, eager to read his new library book and copy some of the pictures.
We read through it, looked at the charcoal drawings, and set about creating some of our own. I carefully pulled out the paper and pencils and showed him how to draw and shade like we saw in the pictures.
As we flipped each page and chose images to illustrate on our own, he would watch me carefully, trying to copy my strokes and imitate my technique. We took some time to discuss the story, and I decided to make a list with him.
“Buddy, you know how Lentil is so good at the harmonica? What are you good at?”
His face was blank.
“Writing,” he said, rather quickly, though not very certain or excited.
“What else?” I asked, praying that the answer would come easily. I try my best to encourage him, to pour words of praise and affirmation into his heart, so that he will know he has been created special and unique and of great value. We can worry about humility later, after all he’s only three. For now, I want to give him wings to fly.
His face was blank again, uncertain of the correct answer.
I asked him more questions, more prompting, and we eventually had a list written out. Everything from reading to cuddling to laughing and joking. He looked proud and happy as he looked at the words, and I felt a blanket of assurance rest on his shoulders. Assurance in his unique make up and that value that there is in just being him.
Then we turned our attention back to our art work, and I noticed him shrink back.
“Can you do it, mama?” he would say, as he chose another illustration from our book.
He sought to copy the right way, the only way to complete the task. I saw his uncertainty in his skills, even though I had encouraged him to list “art” as one of his many gifts. My little man tentatively participated, eager to create a mirror image of my work, comparing himself to me and my skills, and not finding value in his own attempts… until I praised them.
I learned something new about him today, in the quiet of the art table: his desperate need for encouragement. Recognizing his own gifts or talents does not come easily to him. I need to write the script he repeats in his mind. I need to etch the words on his heart that will make him brave and certain instead of tentative and scared. I want him to find grace.
I want him to know in his bones that the process is beautiful, not just the product.
He needs to believe that he has permission to fail and find his way. More than that. There is glory in it!
Success in this home is not measured by repetition and perfection, but by valiant effort come what may.
I adore his charcoal covered hands, the memories of sketching and smearing and working side by side. And we both learned something today about ourselves and each other, even if on paper it doesn’t look like much.