The other day, a friend posted a picture on facebook that her 2-year-old daughter had created. It was a pretty picture, of a rainbow of lines drawn on lined paper.
I looked at it and thought, "Wow. That little girl is a scientist! See how she saw the pattern on the page (lines) and then recreated it, changing the variables (the color of the lines) to see what would happen. That's amazing."
Her mother posted, along with the picture, a comment about how her daughter is clearly an artist, having created something so beautiful at such a young age.
It was the same picture and the same little girl, but our interpretations of what was going on in her mind, and the long-term results of that way of thinking, were profoundly different. And probably equally right. Or wrong. Obviously we can't guess what a little girl is going to become based on one picture (although her mom has a much better grasp on that than I do!).
It made me wonder, though, how much of what our children become is influenced by how we, from the outside, interpret them and their actions. Actually, that's kind of scary. What if she was born to be an artist, and I looked at the picture and saw the mind of a scientist at work and therefore provided her with science tools and toys, science camps, science magazines....all in good intentions of giving her what she might love most. What if my interpretations of my own kids actually holds them back from developing into what and who they are?
Being a parent is scary. There are a million billion ways to do it wrong and mess it up.
Good thing kids keep giving us feedback, so that we can adjust course when we screw up or misread something. Good thing kids don't have to be just one thing or another. Good thing it's not my job to make them into that one thing (whatever it is), to mold them or create them or determine who and what they should be. Good thing I'm not the boss of their lives or futures, not the determiner of their souls.
Good thing most kids turn out just fine despite us parents and our mistakes. Hopefully they forgive me some day when they realize all the ways I did it wrong (because they will, at some point, realize). My intentions are good. They really are.