Tuesday, November 15, 2011

It'll be okay. Don't worry.

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A few years ago, when I first heard Randy Pausch's Last Lecture, I was moved to tears. Partly for the tragic horror it would be to face mortality and its consequences as a parent, but partly also for the magnificence of Randy Pausch's mother in letting him draw all over his bedroom walls.

Pausch says:
"When I was in high school, I decided to paint my bedroom. I always wanted a submarine and an elevator. And the great thing about this is they let me do it, and they didn’t get upset about it. And it’s still there. If you go to my parent’s house, it’s still there. And anybody who is out there who is a parent, if your kids want to paint their bedroom, as a favor to me, let them do it. It’ll be OK. Don’t worry..."
That quote has come to my mind many times. When my kids have asked to hang a particularly ugly poster on the wall in their bedroom or begged to paint their room a hideous color. Without fail, each and every time, I've said no. And patted myself on the back for not letting them make decisions I was confident they'd regret later.

Deep down inside, it's haunted me.

So this weekend, when I announced that I would be painting their walls as part the The Remodel, I was fully prepared to say no when they asked to help.

But I thought of Pausch, his mother, and I somehow found myself saying yes instead.

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In the beginning, it was all I could do to not take over the job myself. Every fiber of my being cried out against this loss of control. When I stepped in large gobs of paint spilled on the floor. When I caught their paint drips racing down baseboards, and discovered I had caught them too late.

Most especially when one of them fell off a five-foot ladder, landing in a painful heap on the hard floor.

But once I'd made peace with the inevitable paint smeared on the ceiling, the paint dripping down the closet corners, and the extra hours it took for all of this, I noticed something.

I noticed the eagerness in their eyes as they talked about where they'd place the furniture in their new rooms. I noticed their smiles and laughter, as they sang along to the music. I noticed the teamwork as they helped each other navigate tricky angles. I noticed the ownership and pride on their faces at being given the responsibility of such a grown up task. I noticed us working, side-by-side, as our happy chatter passed the time.

And I noticed something I had missed all along: It's really not such a bad thing to let your kids paint on the walls after all.

And it'll always be okay.

Because the things that matter are not drips in the corner or smudges on the ceiling.

The things that matter are the three wonderfully perfect little people who put them there.

14 comments:

missy said...

But what about when they ask to paint a submarine? That's the hard part for me. I completely admire parents who let their kids do things like that, but man, it's way harder to be that parent.

Jeanelle said...

When I read the title and then the "last lecture" reference I hurriedly scanned the post to make sure you weren't sick and/or dying. And then I figured out that this was only about letting your kids help with painting. PAINTING?!?! Um, Stie NEVER DO THAT TO ME AGAIN!

Karey said...

Nice post. They're learning to work together, they're learning you trust them and you're all creating memories. So important.

Julianna said...

My father built the house we grew up in. Needless to say, we did not get to paint. We weren't even allowed to put a poster up with thumbtacks.

Today I have my own house. My kids helped mud the drywall, sand, paint and decorate their rooms. My walls have been every color under the sun and that's OK. The paint on the ceiling can be touched up as can the baseboards.

But please, for the internet's snaity, don't do what I did. Don't make a deal with your Youngest boy that allows him to pick out your haircolor. Yeah. That was an interesting month full of hats. :)

calibosmom said...

Good job! I know that was really hard. I handed the roller over last year-it was torture but you're right, totally worth it to see their happiness.

Lauren in GA said...

Beautiful post, Stie. Just beautiful.

I get the same way...I want to do things myself (even about little things like folding laundry)...because it will look so much better...but I love it when I let go and let them do things.

You are a great mom, Stie.

Cathy said...

Well I feel like I deserve a big pat on the back for letting my kids help paint the bedroom walls a few months ago. Being 3 and 4, that darn near killed me. But I let them and now I'm extra glad I did.

mae said...

It's so hard to bury the control freak inside me to let my kids help with that kind of stuff. Way to go, mom.

Nurse Graham said...

You may have been moved to tears by the Last Lecture, but I got misty-eyed reading this post. As my daughter prepares to head to college next year and my son moves through high school as well, I realize how many times I have said "no" when everything would have really been OK if I had said "yes". And how many experiences we have missed out on because I couldn't let go of my need for control. I'm glad that you are discovering how to do. It will leave you with a lot less regrets.

danandcindy said...

You write this crap, and then you'll go in after they've gone to school and redo what you are not satisfied with...

Well done.

Amanda D said...

I wish I had read this before I painted last time. The kids wanted to help but I didn't let them. I should have....

Tristan said...

I think it is great that you let them help. Makes them feel more involved. Props to you for letting go of that control. Cuz I am not sure I could.

Liz said...

You are creating a more functional home and happy family memories. Good job!

Becky said...

I know, I know... but I am not there yet. I loved that book as well. I think some parents are good at letting go, and some are not. Maybe I am good at my own things. It's ok that the paint is drippy and dried on but is my mind EVER going to be ok that it's like that? I don't know. I will work on it... and I WOULD go back and touch up. For me, the base layer has to be right and then maybe they can hang up crap, ... or even draw on the walls. Either way, thanks for getting me to re-think over my control. You are good!