No sense letting beauty waste

?There?s no sense letting all this beauty go to waste.? ?Beauty, The Sun Magazine, issue 417

I used to watch a home design show called ?Blank Canvas.? The idea was whitewashing an entire house interior to create a blank canvas, then bringing colors back in that suit the personalities and styles of each family member.

When you start with a blank slate, it does change how you view a room. It allows you to see the potential of the space.

And so it is with kids. It started with Day 1. There they are, shiny and new, no preconceptions, no idea what they will like, dislike, want or think. It?s easy to see why we unintentionally go a little psycho at times. They are a blank canvas of sorts, but not for our amusement.

Character Rhaim Khan from the book ?The Kite Runner? said, ?Children aren?t coloring books. You don?t get to fill them in with your favorite colors.?

But that?s not to say we can?t show them our favorite colors.

There was a story compilation in The Sun Magazine called ?Beauty.? The first submission was about the son of a mechanic, who, at the dismay of his hard-nosed father, had absolutely no interest in cars or how they worked. He grew up with his father?s disgust and disappointment and as an adult, because of his adamancy in avoiding all things mechanical, was afraid of anything breaking down on his watch.

?The CHECK ENGINE light sends shivers down my spine. A leaky roof causes me to panic. When our washing machine starts spewing water all over the floor one day, my wife gives me a ?What are we going to do now???

In between the belittlings of his childhood, his father did manage to pass along one piece of advice that stuck. He told him: ?If something is broken, take a look at it, study it?you might be able to figure it out and fix it yourself for nothing.?

With that, the displaced self-proclaimed, non-mechanical hippy disappointment of a son was able to fix his own washer after all by sealing a broken plastic part with his surfboard resin.

His father?s misdirected wisdom combined with his own tool. And in the end, a beautiful thing that finally tied his father to him in a real way.

It makes me think about how I relate to my kids. I want to support without condition or expectations, but also protect them from missing something great if they don?t jump when the opportunity is there. I?d love to prop their eyes open so they don?t miss that one thing that will come by. Because, eventually, it will.

It?s easy to get wrapped up in what you want for your kids. Much of the time, it?s probably what we wanted for ourselves.

We see traits and talents in them and want to jump in so nothing goes to waste because we know their untapped potential is as beautiful as it gets.

I get excited when my kids get excited about something. But I realize it?s easy to get all out of whack with the possibilities.

We tell ourselves we?re doing them some kind of favor by giving them a head start in the ?right? direction, pushing them toward what we consider to be their talents.

But when we become so focused on guiding them, it?s a slippery progression. I?ve heard the comparison to the act of falling asleep. It happens slowly and when someone is actually asleep, they don’t know it. They?re just…in it.

We can hope they see at least some of what we try to show them, but mostly that there?s no sense in letting all this beauty go to waste.

Revised from original publication in September 2010.

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