Honoring the human in my child

I have a confession to make. The boxes under my son’s bed give me anxiety. Every time I see them, I want to go through them and organize them - toss out the old popsicle stick creations, put away the random batteries, screwdrivers, and flashlights from around the house, and throw away the broken RC helicopters. But I resist the urge to control his space. I allow them to exist with this rule: a lid must fit on the top of each box and they must be able to slide under the bed. 

These boxes didn’t always exist. When my son was in third grade, I realized that I was stifling his creativity and need to tinker with my own desire for order and cleanliness. Order and cleanliness are not who my son is. At eight years old, he wanted (or rather needed!) to explore the world around him. He learns by doing. He feels honored when he is allowed to build and invent and experiment.

That year we were trying to find a year-long science curriculum that was feasible for us. Nothing was sticking. So we dropped the year-long idea, and started exploring unit study options. One of his interests was electricity. Another was engineering. So we headed to the library and checked out some engineering books. We ordered a unit study on electricity. We bought mini motors, wheels, copper wire, clip leads, and lights. And he took off with his exploration and learning. 

Those boxes became some of his most cherished possessions. He is free to go get his boxes and tinker and create whenever he wishes. They are his own, and he takes pride in that. He is not motivated by a beautiful or magnificent end-product. He is motivated by the doing, by what he can learn as he is putting two things together. He is a great teacher for me!

I was photographing my children that fall, and he reminded me once again, that my ideas of a great portrait are not the same as his are for getting them taken. His thoughts were not on the final image that I would print for the wall; his thoughts were on how to make this experience funny. And when I stopped telling him how to pose, I ended up with a series of images that are so clearly him, a series of images that I will cherish forever. 

I am grateful for children that push me out of my own comfort zones and encourage me to think outside the box. Because in the grand scheme of things, if I can’t see the contents of those boxes when I walk past or in his room, it doesn’t hurt me or my household that they exist. What it does do is honor my child for who he is and gives him space to explore who he is and his world.

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