Years ago, I arrived early one day to pick up my daughter from pre-school. The children still had to sing their final song and do the last farewell, so I had time to look at the craft the kids had done that day, spread out on a table by the door so the glue could dry.
The teachers had given the kids construction paper flower pots, chocolate crumbs for dirt, a stem, leaves, petals and a sun. All of the 15 or so crafts, except for one, had flowers that looked like flowers and soil, a stem, leaves and a sun placed in all the right places. That one craft though, well, it was a mess. The sun was folded and at a weird angle. The leaves covered the flower petals. The pot hid the dirt. I looked at it and thought, “I wonder whose craft that is?” I felt a pang of sympathy for the poor art-inhibited child.
The session concluded and my daughter ran to the door. To my mortification, she picked up the craft that I had just pitied and said with great excitement, “Look what I made!”
I plastered a “That’s wonderful, honey” smile and my face. Before I could say anything, she said, “Look, Mom.” She peeled back the pot to reveal the dirt; she had made an extra fold there. “The soil has food for the flower.” She pointed to the stem. “The food travels up the stem.” She unfolded the sun so that it shone fully. “The sun shines on the leaves to help make the food work for the flower so the flower can bloom.” She folded down the leaves so they fell into leaf position and revealed the flower.
She struck me dumb. I had hastily judged her work and found it wanting. Then she showed me that she understood the lesson, and that the work was well thought out, purposeful and brilliant in its own way. Boy, did I feel like a chump.
A wise person once gave me the best parenting advice ever: Always ask for the child’s side of the story. I don’t always remember to do that. Sometimes I rush to judge. When I do, I usually end up feeling like a chump.