Blank White Paper

(Warning: I just woke up and and reread this posting and it actually may really act like a self indulgent journal entry)

Yesterday I listened to a thief open the heavy squeaky wooden parents drawer of the family desk, removed what sounded like many sheets of

IMG_7258

artist: Jeff B. Davis

copy paper, and return to her bedroom, locking the door behind her. Shortly thereafter I heard the crunch of the stapler. She’d returned to get it too. Then with a few quick bouncy steps I heard a leap land and a slam of the door, too loud for such a sneaky thief. Clearing my throat I went to retrieve the last of the copy paper, it’s tax time in our house.

“You cannot take the last of the paper”…I began. “No. No! No!!” She said scowling at me while stuffing the papers into her rumpled bed. The stapler was trapped out of sight. “Give me those papers NOW please.” This continued until I agreed to let her have five sheets, because she’s five years old I reasoned to her. She agreed to return the last of the crumpled paper and the stapler even though she was certain five sheets was not enough for the book she was making, but it will have to do today. Geez lousie…

Call me a scrimper, but she does have her own wealth of property. Her alotted desk drawer is  deeper than mine and heavy with enticing colorful treasures: fairy princess coloring books, origami paper, construction paper, paper dolls, sticker pads, the pretty stationary she’d received from her aunt. I know this because she and I cleaned it out last month and she hugged every wonderful thing in her drawer. We cleaned and stacked  all the coloring books from largest to smallest, high-fived, shut the drawer, and she never opened it again because, I suppose, it doesn’t have any blank white paper.

We people, who have children we love, try to provide everything we can to help them grow healthy, happy, and to discover their potential.  So after this scenario I had to ask myself, am I distracting my child’s self motivation with my own collection of paper doll experiences, princess advertisements and cultural messages? My daughter prefers to draw her own lines and make up her own story lines rather than color inside someone else’s.  It’s just her way. I love this about her, though wonder why I keep adding items to a drawer that remains closed. What IS my motivation?  But really, what child would prefer a ream of copy paper for their birthday instead of one of those stunning coloring books and special painting markers?

On the other side of this thought is knowing that children must learn to color within the lines. It’s an important acknowledgement that we have to defer to our teachers (all types of them) and set aside our own own ideas in order to learn, grow, and (yes, let’s admit it) fit in. And the counter balance to that is providing them with a time to be open. So recently, I’ve agreed that when my children return home, there will be a time and space where they can go their own way. In our home I’ve found that this occurs best when the screens are turned off followed by a brief episode of wining and admitting “I’m bored…”. I give it 10 minutes, and the ideas sprout and grow rapidly. For my son and his three buddies, the backyard becomes a space battleship developed from sticks and a few foam noodles.

Children don’t need much to be happy. I know you’ve heard that so many times before. It’s plastered everywhere. But do we give too much to the point that it’s wasteful and distracting? Are we…am I, nurturing a need for immediate gratification when I pile the drawers with coloring books and markers and crayons of every color?

A child has shown me again that less is more, and that kids are often capable of greater things than we ourselves can imagine. So, this birthday:

  1. Ream of blank white paper
  2. Flintline stapler.
  3. Markers (maybe the glittery kind…maybe not)

Done. She’ll love it.

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