For two mornings in a row, I sat in my pajamas at the kitchen table making holiday crafts with my children. Yesterday I was the only adult at the table. We chatted, the kids practiced sharing (with some minor successes), and everyone walked away feeling great.

Then today happened. My husband. Bless his heart but he has zero patience for imperfection. Where I'm very quick to say, "Oh well, you're eight, who cares," he stresses out and gets frustrated and yells out, "Geez, Javier! Are you even paying attention?!"

Watch the hurt and disappointment. Watch that eight-year-old face collapse in on itself. See the eight-year-old eyes fly downward and the eight-year-old lip pop out. Listen as the eight-year-old voice says thinly, "I'm just not good at this."

I forget sometimes that it's not fair for one person to force his or her desires and hobbies on someone else. The blame lies with me. I was the one, ten minutes earlier, who cajoled the craft-hating mountain man into sitting down at the table with us. It was my voice who said, "Why can't you just hang out with us as a family?" And my eyes that rolled into the back of my head when he said, "I'm fine just watching."

The snowball rolled disastrously out of control. It swallowed up them both and I was there on the sidelines, helpless to stop it. I tried to make it better, but my sweet boy doesn't recover well. And the mountain man was so frustrated that he bundled up the wee one and bounded outside. Javi and I sat side-by-side, painting glue onto his project and talking about what happened.

Me: "Your dad doesn't mean to get upset. He just doesn't understand that sometimes an artist doesn't do things perfectly."

Javi: "Am I an artist?"

Me: "Well, do you enjoy using your imagination to make new things?"

Javi: "Yeah."

Me: "Then you're an artist. And lots of people will misunderstand you, so don't let it upset you. Just keep creating things."

Javi: "Yeah, I'm an artist. Just like you, Mama. Not like Daddy. I'm a basketball player like Daddy."

Me: "That's right. You are an artist like me and an athlete like Daddy. That's pretty cool, right?"

Javi: "Yeah, it's pretty awesome."

And with that, our day folded back and the warmth returned. But it was a lesson for me. A deep, thoughtful lesson about how force can create something beautiful, but, just as often, applying it causes something equally amazing to shatter. I never again want to be that pressure.


  • amber_mtmc

    I almost cried while reading this.

    Parenting can be tough. Two parents with two personalities can lead to many situations like this.

    I loved your conversation with your son afterward. What an amazing chance to express differences without minimizing what happened.

  • Ellie

    I totally agree with Ambrosia's comment.

    It's hard to watch my husband TRY to play with the kids. His personality is just too rough for them (I think) and sometimes he hurts their feelings (they are 2 & 3 years old) and its painful to watch when that happens. Since they are so young I normally say "It's ok Daddy's not mad, RIGHT DADDY? *insert evil look at husband here* and we both give them hugs.

    I will have to try to remember this post when the time comes.

  • MommyGeek

    This is a really great post, with a great lesson. Thank you for sharing with us.

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