A few years ago my six-year-old son, Luke, was quietly keeping himself occupied during a church meeting. Very precisely, and with great deliberation he was drawing horses amidst a picturesque mountain scene. He wanted to finish off his picture just right, but was still not confident in artwork outside of his western genre. He leaned across my lap and asked his nine-year-old sister, Megan, if she would draw a ‘cloud’ up in the sky. Megan took the paper and pencil and proceeded to draw her interpretation of Luke’s request.
Kindly, Megan handed the paper back to Luke. Within seconds, Luke was in full blown tears. Right there in the middle of a quiet church meeting, Luke was unable to restrain his disappointment and tears. He cried aloud, “She ruined my picture.” As I glanced down at Luke’s picture, very carefully drawn up in the sky was. . . a C-L-O-W-N. My husband, suddenly aware of the whole exchange, and trying to restrain his laughter, quietly escorted crying Luke from the room. Megan was clearly devastated. Knowing she had just ‘ruined’ Luke’s picture, she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
When Luke was brought back into the meeting, he was still visibly disappointed. No matter what we said, or what imaginative approach we used, he could not envision a clown having any appropriate place in his masterpiece.
I’ve thought about that little exchange a lot over the years. We frequently reminisce and can’t help but laugh about the cloud/clown that ‘ruined’ Luke’s picture. And, believe it or not, I’ve found myself wondering if clouds and clowns can apply to motherhood. Am I a clown or am I a cloud?
Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if our very best efforts and intentions still end up being the wrong thing, to some. Surely I’m not the only mother that sometimes wonders how much easier it would be to forget all the conscious effort and intention, and just “go with the flow.” Each time my kids ask why they are the only ones that have chores after school, or the only ones that have to brush their teeth every day, or the only ones that ever have to practice instruments, I have to remind myself of what my intentions are. Why am I doing what I am doing?
Despite all the pressures to have ‘nice little clouds up in the corner of my drawings’, I’m daring to have a clown. And, despite all my valiant efforts to teach my kids to work hard, learn responsibility and obey family rules, there are times my kids still think I’m the only mother on the block who makes their kids clean toilets on Saturday mornings. They don’t always like my clown in the sky. They want a cloud.
I’m trying to teach them that there are reasons behind my decisions. I’m trying to help them to see that I don’t just arbitrarily make up all the rules, but that I’ve given it careful thought and consideration. I want my children to grasp that sometimes our efforts may turn into something delightful and treasured. It may just take a little time to see the result. Guess what I’m using to teach them?
That Sunday morning, had Megan drawn an appropriate, simple cloud on Luke’s picture, the work of art would very possibly have found its way in a garbage can before too long. It probably would have never stood out among the seemingly never-ending pile of art projects that often adorn my desk or fridge.
Instead, that far from ordinary picture (a horse scene with a clown in the sky), hung in a prominent place in our home for weeks. It is now being carefully preserved in a safe place. No one thinks of it as a ruined picture anymore. What made the difference? Megan’s genuine effort, careful thought, and sincere intent, albeit muddled up with Luke’s initial desire, have given us a final product that is a dear family treasure. So, forget the clouds that seem so ordinary—draw a clown instead.
QUESTION: How can you feel greater confidence and contentment with the decisions you have made for you and your family?
CHALLENGE: Don’t feel pressured to conform to those around you, have the confidence to stand behind your parenting decisions.