July 3, 2018

How my son’s Messy Mistake became a Masterpiece.

Why couldn’t he just do it right?

A few weeks ago, I asked my son to do some painting—and he left me an accidental masterpiece. It took me a while to see it as such, but now it will always make me think of him.

There was still paint left after the first project, so I asked him to also paint an extra rail of the deck. I’m not sure if he just didn’t want to do it, or if he was in a hurry, or if I should have made him watch some painting videos first, but I got an extra splotch of purple on the side of the house that I hadn’t planned on.

At first, I was upset—and that fussy voice in my head kicked into high gear immediately. Why did he do that? Couldn’t he see it and just wipe it off? Where did he feel his responsibility for completing the chore ended? Didn’t he know it was paint and would be there for quite some time? What will people think?

Why couldn’t he just make it look nice? Why couldn’t he just do it right?

I hated how my insides felt, clenching up as the anger grew. I knew that tight feeling in my body was a sign that there was something I needed to let go of. I had to release that tension—and since I knew the only way to unclench was to change my way of seeing the situation, I listened to my own complaints and tried to reframe them.

So, if I thought it was ugly, I needed to find the beauty in it. If it wasn’t what I had wanted, how could I open to see the beauty of it for what it was? Instead of struggling against the feelings, how could I let those feelings tumble into play?

I took some slow, deep breaths. “Why couldn’t he just do it right?” slowly changed into “But who gets to decide what’s right?” It was my house, my son, my splotch of paint. Shouldn’t I get to make that call?

Who is going to really see it but us, anyway? Why not redefine how I see it using my own made up rules?

What other feelings did I have about the way he did the project?

It makes me happy that he fulfilled my request to do the chore. That shows me that he has love and respect for me—and is willing to take on new responsibilities. It also makes me happy that there is more purple in my life. Why should the extra splotch that rests on the house instead of the deck rail spoil those feelings?

If I look at the splotch of paint through the eyes of love for my big kid who can handle this kind of chore on his own now, I can see magic of his efforts preserved on the wall of the house. That purple splotch could be a symbol of him changing from a big kid into a young man.

Just because someone may judge it without knowing the story of it, doesn’t mean the splotch isn’t beautiful in my eyes.

Life gets better when we live our own story, not one that someone else may tell about us. Gratitude for the beauty in our lives flows most easily when not weighed down the opinions of other people. And the only way those opinions can attach to us ifs if we hold on to them. I am happiest when I can remember to let go and refrain from making those comparisons.

And maybe, just maybe, I can even find room to turn toward seeing the splotch as a result even better than I expected when I added the chore to his to-do list. (Like the time when he was three and had been just a little too quiet for just a little too long, and I found him taking a bath in the sink. I groaned about the water that had sloshed all over the floor, but was kind of glad about it when the whole bathroom was shiny and clean after I wiped it all up.)

Even now, the purple splotch is still there. I didn’t ask for it, but the sight of it now makes me smile. I can always paint over it one day—or I can leave it there as a reminder of his presence after he moves away. It can be a sign that triggers my gratitude for him. Maybe I’ll even get to show it to his kids and share the story someday—if and when I have any grandbabies.

I think I’ll have him sign it. Just to celebrate it as a proper work of art.


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Mary Jelf

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