So I'd like to change what I post about on Mondays for my own sanity. I'm trying to stop being so upset about education in America. About what is (standardized testing, grrrr...) and is not (learning to love reading, grrrr...) happening in our schools.
Because in reality, there is nothing I can do about this, other than do my best to vote for people who care about these issues, but even that seems impossible.
The only thing I really have control over is my own home and what happens there. I'm going to have to walk around with half-shut eyes (still trying to stay informed, of course), and be as positive as I can about this crazy, wonderful world we live in. (Even when I read fascinating articles like this and I want to move to Finland:
On Mondays, I'd like to focus on light, as in light versus dark. I know this is a touchy, feely thing. Vague. Unsubstantiated. Maybe even weird, but I believe in the concept of light and darkness in our lives, and I believe we have a great amount of control over how much of each we let in.
I was at my childrens' school the other day and witnessed countless remarks like, "Get back in line." "That is not a straight line." "Stop messing around in line." "Where does the line go?" "You will go to the office if you do not get in line this instant.""Are you listening to me?" "Are you paying any attention at all?"
I know teachers (and teachers assistants and cafeteria workers) are tired. I know they have to keep kids under control. I know this, and I have no doubt I would be saying the exact same things (though sometimes I imagine I would not). But there is an awful lot of berating that happens at school, and while it is not exactly dark, it is definitely not light.
And then there are the darker things: school safety drills because of senseless shootings, the need to protect our children from abuse—just the way adults and even parents speak to children sometimes.
Our kids need as much light as we can give them. At least mine do. And, not to be cheesy, but the more light I manage to infuse into my kids lives, I swear, the more they shine.
I'm striving for this light every day, so on Mondays I'd like to post my experiments and findings. Today, I'd like to share something that brought a little light into our family over the weekend.
I call it: Mom Lets Me Decorate My Room By Myself—Totally.
When I was about eight years old, I moved down to our newly finished basement. I remember spending a lot of time agonizing over wallpaper, picking blue clouds or some such thing and not being able to wait until the room was finished. Then I came home from school one day and found pink carpet and pink flowery wallpaper. My (wonderful!) mother had chosen for me.
I did not like pink. I was not happy. I lived with that room through high school. The room is still pink, and I still don't like it... BUT my mom did let me decorate my room (posters, etc...) however I wished. Cary Grant lined my walls. So did Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Everything I hung up in my room represented what I thought was cool, the kind of person I wanted to be. What I would have chosen at eight for the wallpaper and carpet might have been quiet hideous, but it would have been mine. I would have owned it, and I think that might have been good for me.
To me, this is a form of light. When we let our kids own their spaces, really own them. Sometimes we make even the tiniest suggestions that essentially tell our kids we don't trust them to make good choices. That our ideas, in the end, are better than theirs. When we don't suggest, cajole, influence, we tell our kids that we have faith in their choices, and we gain great insights into what is important to our kids.
Lucy wanted to get her room painted for her birthday. I told her we would buy the paint and I would help her paint, but I wanted her to be the primary painter. I also told her I wanted her to pick out the colors. I would not even offer a suggestion. (This was hard, especially because of the work it would entail—and there is always that, "What if we have to sell our house later?" question.)
Lucy is a tidy little person. Her room has always been well-organized, but as we moved stuff around on Saturday, I discovered that she is a bit of a pack-rat, far more than I realized. She owns a lot, a lot!, of seashells, for example. She has tidy piles of papers everywhere. She collects pencils. A lot of pencils. And she has some pretty strange things taped to her walls.
But as we painted her room a pukish-greenish color and a bright pink (her choices!), I learned a lot about her. She is sentimental. She loves the Savior and having pictures of him around the room. She loves the fish, the bird, and the guinea pig in her room, and she takes immaculate care of them. She has labeled her bookshelf and sorted her books alphabetically. She likes stickers. She likes baby pictures of her and Mary. She likes funky pillows that match nothing. She is happy and she is content being herself right now, so much more than I was at her age. Oh, I loved realizing that. That made the aching hand and aching back I was left with when we were through painting her room colors I would not have chosen well worth it.
On Sunday, Lucy shone a bit. She was filled up with a little more with light than usual. And I loved it.
Of course, all the other kids want to transform their own spaces now, and I'm trying to brace myself for lots of painting and lots of mess and lots of little piles I don't understand as well as pictures that don't seem all that special being taped up to walls.
But it is their light, their space, and I'm going to do my best to step aside and let them shine!