Chicago kids learn through doing

Walk into any toy gym or class and you’ll experience a Seussian variety of parents.

New mom.

Veteran mom.

Old mom.

Young mom.

Mom of many.

Mom of one.

Nanny, grandma and that one lonely dad.

In my head I’m still the young mom, but as I approach the top of the hill I’ve come to the realization: I’m the veteran, old, mom of many.

That realization, while late, has lead me to this: Moms, relax and allow yourself to see the resilience of your kids. Sit back and enjoy their ingenuity, their creativity and their abilities. I guarantee you will be surprised, perhaps wowed, by what your little one can do without being taught. It will make motherhood more magical for you.

As we sat in our toddler art class I looked around and saw the former me – New, young, stressed out mom.

“No! No! No!” She says, “We’re not using our hands. No hands in the paint. See, take the shape and stamp it . . .” She wrestles with the unwillingly toddler until they are both unhappy and they have to step away.

I used to be that mom. Carefully watching over everything. Making sure we were acting the right way, sitting the right way, only coloring inside the lines. I’ve relaxed a lot in the last nine years, partially by circumstance. When we started the art class I did try to get her to follow the instructions, do it the right way, make it look like the sample. Then the teacher said something that has really stuck with me:

“It’s about the process, not the product”

The kids are learning through doing. They are experiencing the sensation of paint in their fingers. The joy of creating something new and different. They are learning that what they think is beautiful and is different from what someone else thinks is beautiful, and that’s okay and wonderful.

I’m learning too. I’m learning that the process of mothering is ever changing and goes on even without me supervising it. Sure, I sat with my oldest more and went over everything we were doing: naming the colors, the shapes, the process. More often than not my daughter is at the table doing her thing while I chase after her newly mobile brother, trying to keep him from tearing apart the studio. You know what? She’s probably enjoying that much more. She holds up her paint covered hands and proudly says, “Look mom, I’m purple!” She’s beaming and happy and proud of what she has done.

Our kids can do more than we give them credit for. They are sponges that are absorbing everything around them without us needing to pull the puppet strings. The next time you’re out or playing, sit back for a minute and see what they do on their own. Sure, they may get messy and the painting may not be the best. But the smile they give you with what they have created will be perfect.

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