My daughter and I are heading on the train to NYC tomorrow morning to celebrate her sixth birthday. A “girls weekend”, as she says, where we’ll stay up late and eat lots of cake. Oh, this daughter of mine who challenges, delights and never ceases to surprise me.
As I was cooking dinner the other night, my daughter was happily painting nearby until she made a mistake. In an effort to correct it, she ended up painting the princess’ face dark green. Forget about kissing a frog. The princess was the frog.
Normally, my daughter might toss the picture aside and begin again. But this was a special canvas with an outlined picture. And it was a gift I had given to her earlier in the day.
Suddenly, my daughter erupted into a state of complete and utter self-defeat. She crossed her arms and sulked. Tears were shed. Words of anger and helplessness and frustration spewed from her pouty little mouth. And no matter what advice, comfort or perspective I offered her, she was stuck.
And so, eventually, I just sat down across from her, saying nothing. She ate a few bites of her dinner in silence and then – as if a wand had invisibly been waved – said, “Oh Mama, it’s just a beautiful oops! Do you know what that means? It’s when you make a mistake but then something even more beautiful comes from it. Something that surprises you.” And then she ran over to the picture of the grinch-like princess and looked at it. “It’s not even bad!” she said, “you can even see the eyes if you look really REALLY closely! Oh my, and here I thought it was ruined.”
She proceeded to finish her dinner and bounce on up the stairs as if all the beauty had been restored. And indeed, it had.
And then it occurred to me. As this green-faced princess was my daughter’s beautiful oops, she – my daughter – is mine.
Because no matter how I try to guide or teach – or, in my weaker moments, control – her, she is decidedly and often bewilderingly her own person. And whenever I hold onto how I want her to be in a moment (or ten years down the road) with a tight and sometimes desperate grasp, I lose sight of her inherent beauty.
But when I step back and take her in, my fairy-winged, story-telling, lover-of-life daughter, I see a beauty that I couldn’t have conjured up in my fantasies. It is deeper, richer, wilder and infinitely more fascinating.
And same with you and me.
We are far less perfect and tidy and complete than perhaps we’d like to be. We have pains and fears; unanswered questions and unresolved problems; longings and doubts.
And yet, if we step back to discover the beauty in whatever mess we’re holding, we will surely find it.
Because our life is one big, beautiful oops.
Thank you for being a part of my life and community. And may you celebrate that which hasn’t gone as envisioned or intended – and the beauty born of it.