Wednesday, March 21, 2007

“That which does not kill us, only makes us drive to the store”

By Karrie McAllister

Nietzsche stated, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”
And looking back at our last few weeks, I can only pray that this applies to my children. Recently I made a very poor parenting decision, one which resulted in hysterical children and a spontaneous trip the store.
So I have to ask myself, are my parental blunders strengthening my children’s character, or am I just scarring them for life?
Let us examine the occasion that brought about tears and unbelievable guilt: Art class gone very, very bad.
I am a firm believer in the arts, and when the chance came for my kids to take local classes in creativity, I practically glue-sticked the paint brushes in their little hands. Week after week, I talked it up, praising their work like any good mother should. Sure they had simply spent an hour smearing paint around, but they were so proud of what they made.
And so was I.
When “clay week” rolled around, they worked especially hard. Of course my daughter churned out some excellent sculptures; her birds had beaks that weren’t coming out of their backs and butterflies with symmetrical wings.
But when I saw what my son created, I nearly cried with delight. Somehow, someway, out of the hands of a tiny rambunctious redhead that are usually busy sword-fighting or pulling his sister’s hair, came magnificent works of art—purple giraffes and even anatomically correct birds.
Together they had created an animal magnum opus! Their very own masterpiece zoo!
The art teacher told me and the other parents in the class to bake the clay at a very low temperature to harden it, and so that very afternoon I warmed up the oven so I could forever preserve these timeless treasures.
Oven on, art in. Phone rings. My mother.
Gabbing away and not paying enough attention, I started to smell the ever-so-faint odor of melting crayons. And with the pit in my stomach and my stomach in my throat, I opened the oven door to find the colorful and liquid remains of that zoological masterpiece.
“Gotta go, mom, I just totally melted the kids’ art projects.”
And even though their ears were completely tuned into the TV at that time, they heard me say those words: I melted their art.
For what it’s worth, they took it pretty well, or as well as two small kids could accept the fact that their mother just turned their hard work into a waxy puddle.
Devastated and bawling, I did the only thing I could think of. I hugged them tightly and cried right along with them. The three of us wailing together, and I promised them I’d make it better. Somehow, someway, their art would return.
Even then, as I was planning the trip to the craft store, I thought that even if I couldn’t save their art, I could save someone else’s.
Trying to avoid the moans in the background I quickly phoned another parent in the class. No “hello,” no “hi, this is Karrie.” Nothing cordial at all, just “DO NOT PUT YOUR SON’S ART IN THE OVEN. IT WILL MELT. Your child will cry and you will feel absolutely miserable. And then you will promise them that you will drive almost an hour to find modeling clay even though you have other things to do.”
Between her laughter and my kids’ crying, I didn’t know what to think.
I did, however, know what to do. I ended up buying more modeling clay for them, and we stayed up late making dinosaurs, birds, and hippos wearing underwear and backpacks (or at least I think what they were. I’m really no great artist myself.)
And alls well that ends well, but did they learn a lesson? Did they get any stronger?
I only know what they said to me when they finished their creations.
No “wow,” no “thanks, mom.” Nothing cordial at all, just “DO NOT PUT OUR ART IN THE OVEN!”
I guess I’m a little stronger too.

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