Among the things I took down and sorted into keep or throw out piles, was this picture.
I've had it hanging on the fridge since January or so, it is Wyatt's drawing of our family- Dad, Mom, himself, Jana and Skeeter. It is a great drawing, and I am glad we are all smiling. But his stupendous artistry isn't the only reason I've kept it on display all this time. What is truly striking about this picture is that green check mark and smiley face on top.
He was in Kindergarten when he created this masterpiece. His teacher and the classroom assistants would go around and sign off on things that were completed with a big, green check mark. If an assignment was done extra super well, they would even add a smiley face. Wyatt often got green check marks, and even occasional smiley faces- but this was the only time I had seen him add it himself. At first I thought, "Oh, how cute. He gave himself a stamp of approval, ha ha!"
But after seeing it hanging up for a few days, it really started to tug at my heart. I began to wonder: how often does my little guy have to reassure himself he did a good job...because nobody else did? I certainly intend no blame on his teacher, she was truly wonderful. Really, it was my conscience that was was pricked and I felt a little sad.
Wyatt has a silly streak (knowing his parentage this a not a great surprise), and is often being disciplined at school because he is so impulsive and has a hard time staying focused. We've altered his diet, taken him to pediatricians and psychologists (ADHD was ruled out), talked with him over and over, tried additional exercise after school, implemented reward and consequence plans...the works. But the fact is, he's a 6 year-old boy who hasn't figured out how to control his urges- like, say, the urge to grab some toilet paper and soak it in the sink and throw it around. Or perhaps to suddenly start making underarm farting sounds during reading group. He's not a bully, he's always polite and apologetic when reprimanded, but he does spend a fair amount of time losing privileges because of his silly behavior. And when he gets home and Daddy and I see that he was in trouble and being disruptive to his classmates again, I confess we get a little frustrated.
Which is why I kept this right where I could see it. It reminds me that when he really is trying his best, he needs to be acknowledged, even when his best still seems to fall short. The only thing my little boy really wants is to be accepted. To have us be proud of him and to be secure in the knowledge that he is loved and wanted, and to have someone to tell him he is good enough. The world has more than enough negative messages for my children. They need someone they can count on for reassurance.
I have been an epic failure lately in telling my kids how wonderful they are, and cheering for all the things they do right. It is frighteningly easy to slip into nitpicking about the socks in the front entryway, and the little candy cane shards on my keyboard, the bickering over a toy that is suddenly incredibly desirable after not being so much as touched for months, and on and on...but if that is all they ever hear from me, who else will be their greatest cheerleader? The person they can come to when everyone else turns away? The anchor in and shelter from the absolute hurricane that is public school these days?
That little green smile and that cute, backwards check mark remind me each day that above all, I need to love and accept them and their efforts. I will do my best to patiently teach them, but they will make mistakes as they grow- in fact, it seems they'll make some of the same mistakes about a million times, just to be sure it's not a good choice. But among all the things I am trying to teach them and get them to understand, there is nothing more important for them to grasp onto than simply that they are loved.
Jeffrey R Holland recently said,
So be kind regarding human frailty... Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we.
Then there's this quote from Gordon B Hinckley:
There is a bumper sticker seen much of late that asks the question, “Have you hugged your child today?” How fortunate, how blessed is the child who feels the affection of his parents. That warmth, that love will bear sweet fruit in the years that follow. In large measure the harshness that characterizes so much of our society is an outgrowth of harshness imposed on children years ago.
My kids deal with my imperfections, and forgive my mistakes so readily it makes me cry sometimes. How important it is for me to do the same for them. How important for them to know they can always count on a green check from me.
Suffice it to say, this drawing kept its place on the fridge. I'm gonna go hug my kids.