Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Paint my masterpiece

When Charlotte was born, if David had not been in the room, I wouldn't have believed that she came out of my body. The second I saw her, nothing was familiar about her. She looked like they had brought someone else's baby into the room. She looked nothing like her big sister. I thought for a moment, it was the epidural. When I got her settled into our room, I would look her over her, I thought to myself.

Even after I inspected her face, and scrutinized her hands, and carefully unswaddled her to examine her tiny naked body, there was not one thing on her that she had inherited from me. Not her ears. Not her nostrils. Not the shape of her legs. Even her toes seemed foreign to me.

And so it has gone with Charlotte. Most days, when I am out with all three of my girls, it looks like I have two mini me's, and the kid next door along with us. She looks nothing like me. She is her father. Every bit of her, down to the gap in her front teeth. I love that gap, and when she flashes that smile, with the gap being even bigger at the moment, from the lack of those front teeth, it is Charlotte and her Dad smiling at me, all at the same time.

What has floored me on this parenting journey, is what you do inherit. Olivia has my inability to keep a secret. By that, I mean she has to report every bad thought, or 9 year old mean thing she might have uttered on the playground. She will become riddled with guilt, and it literally eats her alive if she doesn't. That I can say with 100% certainty she got from me. Her cheerful demeanor, and willingness to please, definitely me as well. In fact looking at how she acts at age 9 is looking into a time machine at myself at that age.

Charlotte...oh Charlotte....most days, I hear her rise for the day, and brace myself. I just never know what I am going to get. Some days, she is really tough. Moody. Whiny. One minute she's happy. The next, grumpy. That, I can say with 100% certainty, is all David.

 But there is something that I clearly see as being from me. She has these ideas how something should be. She paints a picture in her mind, and literally, sees how something should go, and most of the time, winds up disappointed. And then, it's bad for everyone.

She wanted to paint. Not just sit down, and paint like they do, at the kitchen table. She wanted to paint at an easel, on a canvas, and even envisioned a palette. She rose the day she had selected, and put on her painting clothes. I swear, if there was a beret around, she would have popped it on her head. I set her up outside, and carefully squeezed out the acrylic paints on to a palette. It took her a while to decide which way she wanted to paint her vision on to the canvas. She had waited for this moment, and I knew what she was thinking. The masterpiece in her head would translate on to that canvas, just as she saw it. Effortlessly.

But it didn't. What started as a sweet, very abstract flower, soon became a canvas, covered in a wash of every color. A wet, brownish, grey, mish mosh. She saw a mess. I saw a night sky. I loved it! But there was Charlotte, in tears, not believing my praises, and storming off, into her room, yelling behind her as she went that she is "the worst painter ever".

Sometimes, the picture you paint in your head, and the expectations you hold so dearly, and with such might, don't always work out as you plan. In that moment, when I saw Charlotte's heart break, because it just wasn't working out as she had planned, I saw me. I saw how hard it can be to accept reality, as opposed to what you thought it was going to be. I saw how terribly disappointed one can become, in not attaining what you thought the outcome was going to be, instead of loving the what you actually got.

When Charlotte's painting dried in the sun, I brought the easel into the house, and propped her finished product up, and took out my art history books, and showed her works from Jackson Pollock, and Georgia O'Keeffe. She was amazed at what could be considered art. She stood back and looked at her finished masterpiece, and was pleased, and proud. As was I, looking at my masterpiece, Charlotte. Both of us, pleased at the outcome.

Not quite what we had painted in our mind.

Even better.

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