So what if I'm 500 years too late. When he looked at a hard edged, raw piece of marble, he not only saw the strength and beauty it could become, but he also artfully worked with the strengths and weaknesses of the stone. He was said to believe that every stone had within it a beautiful sculpture, and the work of the artist was simply to chip away all the extra stone to reveal the treasure within.
This is exactly how I see parenting, only in the case of our children, the sculpture chips away at itself, and we parents only help guide the chisel and mallet.
Time, practice and artistic sensitivity, I am told, make a master sculptor. These are the same skills I need to become a Master Parent.
I only have 18 short years to help sculpt my two sons, and I do not have innumerable slabs of raw, hard edged youths on which to practice. My only assets when that pink, messy newborn was placed in my awestruck embrace are the time and practice I have taken in sculpting myself, and a loving parent's sensitivity.
Since each child is just as unique as each piece of marble (or diamond if you really think about it), parenting one child is completely different from parenting another. So, to be a good parent, I really need to understand myself first. My sculpture of myself will ultimately determine my ability to help sculpt my children. A recent experience with my youngest helped me fully appreciate how 'chiseled' I actually am (pun absolutely intended).
My nine year old was having issues with a friend at school. This friend happened to be a girl. This girl and my son have been friends and had 'play dates' since they were both four. Last year, they both entered 4th Grade, and everything started changing. My little man came home angry and depressed quite often, and when I asked him what was wrong, he would say, "I can't believe (this girl) isn't nice anymore!" When I asked why he thought she wasn't nice, he would just say, "She's hanging out with mean people, and saying mean things" and I couldn't get him to go further than name some girls who I knew were 'gossipy' and then recite some of their gossip - you know the type. Since my son and this girl didn't usually hang out together at school anymore - 4th Grade girls and boys usually don't mix - I knew he had to be observing her group of school friends from a distance, and picking up on things that weren't immediately obvious. After a few days of this same conversation about this girl, I realized this wasn't just his typical dramatic tendency, and I had to delve a little deeper.
The next time we played out this scene, I asked my son, "What is (this girl) doing exactly that shows you she is mean?" He immediately went on a tirade about how she was ignoring him, and hanging out with a 'mean boy' at school. She called this mean boy her 'boyfriend'! "How could she be a nice girl when she calls this mean boy her boyfriend?" he screamed, his eyes glistening.
I mentally took out my sculpting tools, and asked my beautiful, brown-eyed boy, "Are you sad because this girl doesn't call you her boyfriend?" The floodgates opened, and he buried his face in my neck. I held back my own tears as tightly as I held him, and when he calmed down a bit, I helped my son handle his first rejected crush. Over the next several days, I helped him find not only the confidence to stay true to his own character, but also the knowledge that this confidence will draw others with a similar character to him like a Paleontologist is drawn to the dirt. (Just ask him anything about dinosaurs!) Now, about a year later, he and this girl are close again, and he can more easily weather the female pre-pubescent mood swings that have begun.
I could not have acquired these specific parenting skills without first becoming a Master Self Sculptor. My book, Say Bump and Take a Left depicts the lessons I learned when I broke both my legs while I was 8 months pregnant with my youngest, and how these lessons helped me birth a baby and two businesses. I learned not to give in to my anger and depression at having casts on both legs up to the knee, an almost full-term bump and the care of a toddler, since I also had the support of a walker, a bedside commode and an amazingly patient husband. In other words...I, and only I am in control of how I feel and act about the situations I encounter in this journey through life. My broken legs while pregnant journey helped chip away that last chunk of my own strengths vs. weaknesses insecurity, and the resulting book takes the reader on this 'road less traveled' with lots of laughter and a few tears.
Because my children are made of skin and not marble, I'm sure I will sometimes chip away in the wrong place, or hit the mallet a little too hard on occasion, but I know the overall sculpture will not be ruined. These little chips in their marble will simply provided a place on which they will be able to perfect themselves as adults (either with or without the help of therapy). 18 years are certainly not long enough to create a perfect human masterpiece...they will have to do some of the work!
What more can we as parents ask for than to help our children acquire as 'chiseled' a psyche as David's physique?
Mary Kathryn Johnson
Author ~ Entrpreneur ~ Mom