05 February 2012

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That's how the light gets in

Leonard Cohen, Anthem

Julia and I are working on her first relatively big school assignment. Instead of doing Valentines day -- making or signing valentines for an entire class which is good name signing practice but really unless they are all handmade an incredible waste of time and paper -- each child has been assigned a secret pal for whom some gift that corresponds to their likes and dislikes must be made. I feel a particular push to be very involved in this because I want Julia’s gift to her secret pal to be as meaningful/interesting/good as the gifts made by the other fourth graders. And she is not quite as interested as she should be although as we’ve worked on her gift, she has become more engaged in the experience.

Maybe that is the best reason for me to be so involved.

We have the answers to a questionnaire that the kid filled out. Honestly, if I knew who the kids was I’d call her (Best guess is a girl because she likes American Girl Dolls. Girl or very interesting boy.) mother and get some more clues. But the names have been blocked off which is Julia’s case is good since keeping a secret for two weeks is still a bit hard for her.

And there has been no homework for the last week to give the kids time to work on their gifts. Oy! A bit of pressure.

Julia’s secret pal likes parakeets and last week Julia drew a really beautiful picture of a blue parakeet. I bought a cheap glass frame yesterday and we will work on a mat today, as well as some home made gift wrap. We are also making -- via inspiration of one of Julia’s therapists -- an exploding box. I am not going to try to explain it. See http://glitteradventure.blogspot.com/2006/11/exploding-box-class.html. We picked out the paper together. I did the measuring, she did the cutting. She is drawing little pictures for each flap and writing little messages. She’s already drawn the animals that her secret pal likes, and a picture of a girl on horse back (her pal’s interest) and a little dinosaur with a flower for the center of the box. If it all goes together easily, it will be finished tonight.

I was very involved in Cheshire’s early projects at school, but it was more about making sure she got the good mark. Should I be admitting that? I can laugh at myself now. I could see how other parents “helped” their kids -- it was a gifted school and some parents were into proving just how gifted their kids were. If some parent didn’t help their kid with science fair or the wetland’s scrapbook, the work might truly reflect what a third, fourth, or sixth grader could do and fall far short of what other kids were doing. Now, I believe it was so much ego on my part. Cheshire did pick up some valuable hints for projects under my tutelage but really, she would have figured them all out for herself. Maybe sooner if I would have stood out of the way.

For Julia, I am trying to inspire her to be involved -- which so far is succeeding, but more than that, I don’t want her secret pal to be disappointed with what Julia can do. I so want acceptance for her. And maybe, that is just as foolish as trying to keep up with the other parental intercession for Cheshire. Julia is who she is, and I cannot prop her up to speed her acceptance. Her peers like or dislike her, not me. Not me at all.

Last week, she finished a dinosaur mosaic piece that was part of a kit she has had for a long time. The kit had two pictures to stick on tiny, shiny squares in dinosaur patterns. She did one more than a year ago. It was a challenge for her then and when she was finished she had no interest in doing the second one. The picture was put on the wall and slowly lost some of its tiny, mosaic squares. Julia didn’t seem to care about it and it was looking a little sad, and so, when I packed up for last summer’s renovation, I pitched it, sure that Julia did not notice and would not miss it. She took out the kit about two weeks ago and worked on the second picture with her therapists. I could see that she was much more focused on the process and when she was finished asked to put it on the mantel. When I noticed it, she told me that this time, she didn’t want it thrown away. Oops! Ok, she noticed.

Yesterday’s sermon was about imperfection. Music included the Cohen’s Anthem. I had not thought of the words for a long time. I like them; I can believe in the concept, and yet, I fight so hard for that elusive perfection that cannot really be achieved. I blame myself for missing the mark -- perfect mother, perfect lawyer, perfect partner, perfect friend -- because I can be none of that. Letting myself breathe in place of good enough is not easy. Again, it is the middle ground, the middle path. Moderation is damned hard.

And again, Julia is my teacher. When she enjoys something, like drawing and writing, she wants perfections. She will make a letter over and over until it is perfect and there is a hole in the paper. She will overdraw a picture until the perfect form is hidden beneath erasures or dark draft lines. Teaching imperfection is so important for her because she can get stuck, really stuck, in the chase for perfection.

I am no different.

At the Waisman Center on both Thursday and Friday listening to exciting lectures of which I understood little, I wonder at my strong desire to find a place there. I admire and respect the researchers and the work, but I am no scientist. I am no researcher. Is my desire to find a place there, a desire to be among the enthusiastic? Is that all it is? I don’t think so but it was a thought that came to me as I listened to yet another excited scientist speak. And I still don’t see an easy way in -- all I see is my square peg self looking for a suitable round hole. Then again, it is a place where I am a perpetual beginning. A place where I may never be perfect. It is a place where light can be let in? And is that part of my mission?

I ask questions and I continue to ask them, and yet, I know and am beginning to take deep inside that the answers will come in their own time, if at all. It is the questions that I have to live. I will take up the answers when they come.

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