Wednesday, May 25, 2011

All That Glitter!

I don’t know if this post is about my daughter’s hidden disabilities or her artistic process. Maybe it’s about both.

Maybe it’s about how I’m not like her. At all.

I crave order and symmetry and linear storytelling. She spreads out and leaves a trail and assails me with questions and details.

This evening, as my husband and I were trying to wrap up our end-of-the-day family time, Cami brought her silk autumn leaves into our room. She wanted us to see her leaf explosion.

So she made them explode…all over our bed.

Cami's Leaf Explosion
I want to enjoy her creativity. Sometimes, it hits that I-just-need-everything-to-be-neat-and-tidy place in me.

A few mornings ago, the first thing she said to me was “Mom. You have to come downstairs right now. The Plastic Bag Fairy came to our house last night and left us a display. Come on–you have to see it before Roscoe moves.” (Roscoe is our dog.)

At first, I refused. I said, “If you want me to come downstairs to see how you’ve spread plastic bags all over the living room and all over Roscoe, no. I don’t want to see that.”

“I didn’t spread them all over the living room,” she said.

I came downstairs to see this:
The Plastic Bag Fairy's Display
She was correct: she didn’t spread the plastic bags all over the living room. They were contained to the couch.

It made me mad. I’m not sure why.

Maybe I’m jealous that I can’t be that messy.

It’s happened before, this explosion of creativity that makes me angry.

One rainy day, Cami and I both had cabin fever and were getting in each other’s space more frequently than normal. I gathered different art supplies and arranged them on the work table downstairs, thinking, “She’ll have fun making a collage.” My friend Betsy even gave her an art “assignment”: everything green (thinking, like I was, that Cami would be cutting pictures of green things out of magazines and gluing them on paper. That’s a collage, right?).

Cami didn’t make a collage.

She made a fairy glen.

She spread silk flowers and foam stickers all around the room. She adorned her stuffed animals with cloth roses and sparkly ribbons. She transformed our brown basement into a magical space, complete with everything fairies need in their glens.

The crowning glory of her creation? Gold glitter sprinkled everywhere.

By the next day, the glitter had migrated to the front steps. Outside. That evening, I could see the scalloped lines on the facing of each cement step where the rain had washed glitter from the welcome mat down toward the front sidewalk. It made me giggle then.

A few days later, I was in the basement, thinking I would tidy up before we hosted a play date the next day. I was assailed by such a paradoxical emotional dichotomy that I gave up and went to bed.

You see, the glitter was overwhelming.

Glitter on the tables, glitter in the carpet, glitter on the bookshelves, glitter on the television.

I honestly didn’t know how to feel. With a simultaneous “Awww!” (as in “How precious! Look what she made!”) and “Aaarrrggghhhh!!” (as in “#$%&*!! I’ll never get rid of the glitter!!”), I was impressed with her attention to detail and furious with her meticulousness. There was a moment when I was overcome with sleepiness, my limbs seeming to weigh a thousand pounds each.

The underpinning of my emotional state? Grief. Grief that I can’t turn a room into whatever my imagination can think up. Grief that the “real” world is going to crush Cami’s whimsy. Grief that I have to help her negotiate that crushing without losing herself or sacrificing her gifts. I knew the whole experience was the next step in my own transformation. Jesus is redeeming the little girl inside of me and renaming the false labels I’ve worn for years (“too serious”; “no fun”; “party pooper”).

I just didn’t expect it to sparkle so much.

What about you? As you parent, how is God redeeming the child in you?

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