Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Great Divide

Motherhood is like anything else; it’s all in how you look at it. I can obsess over my failures and embarrassing gaffes … or I can share what I've learned and laugh when I get to the good parts. I always choose the answer that includes laughter. I’m not the only one.
In her book, Letter to my Daughter, Maya Angelou writes about a dinner party she attended on her first visit to Sengal at the home of a famous actress. She noted that as the elegant guests milled around the opulent room, they all carefully avoided a luxurious Persian rug laid out in the middle of the floor. Not one person walked or stood on it.
Angelou became appalled for her fellow guests. She could not believe her hostess would place an object above her guests’ comfort and convenience. So she stepped right onto that rug and proudly “walked back and forth several times.” The guests ”smiled at her weakly.” Angelou confidently smiled back, chin held high, hoping they might also be “encouraged to admit that rugs were to be walked on.”
As soon as Angelou moved off the rug, servants removed it and replaced it with another exquisite floor covering. They quickly covered this new rug with glittering place settings, food and wine.
You guessed it. Angelou had been proudly strutting all over her hostess’ tablecloth

Lucky for us, Angelou was gracious enough to share her teaching moment:
"In an unfamiliar culture, it is wise to offer no innovations, no suggestions, or lessons.”

This got me thinking. My sons are fourteen-year-old boys.  I am a more-than-14-year-old woman. I can tell you with great certainty that not much is familiar as I attempt to navigate their teenage world. Our cultures are continents apart.
Have I ever assumed their tablecloth was a rug and walked all over it?
We are all busy weaving our own, unique creations to be admired and judged, appreciated and enjoyed. My own fabric contains parts that are simply glorious and sections that are sloppy and unsightly. Those areas have threads sticking out and ragged edges and great big gaping holes. They were rushed, fumbled, lazily constructed. But it’s not finished yet, so I don’t worry.
I know my boys are busy working their own looms. I see when stitches are crooked or colors are bleeding. I know when patterns are all wrong, turned askew, with distorted proportions. As a parent I want to step in with corrections, and many times I must … that is my job, right? But if I hang back to see what’s trailing behind them, I see a beautiful, glittering work of art that has somehow come together perfectly. Just the way it was meant to, I suspect.
Maybe I shouldn’t worry so much when they drop a stitch or two. I know I should give them more freedom. What I see as mistakes could be expressions of who they are, or at the very least a documentation of their journey, all of it ... the fabulous and the flawed ... in full Technicolor triumph. Who am I to stomp across their designs?