Owen, my sweet-as-pie six year-old, loves to be creative so it never surprisesme to find him sitting on the floor surrounded by crayons and paper, sometimes adding scissors and glue to the mix. Recently he invited me to join him as he conceptualized his next great feat of artistic expression. Quite often I look for an out, deferring him to one of his older brothers as a potentially better partner in craft. On this particular day, however, I decided to color with him, elbow to elbow.
Owen: Mommy, want to color with me?
Me: Sure, Honey. Could you bring the paper and crayons to the table please?
[He arrived at the table with the paper and immediately left the room in search of the crayons. It took him longer than usual to return and I will admit, I was growing a bit impatient as I sat there pondering what to make for dinner, thinking about the homework I needed to tackle with his brother, and feeling somewhat dismayed at the depth of debris stuck to my sock from the unswept kitchen floor. After quite some time Owen returned to the table with the crayons and a proclamation.]
Owen: Here are the crayons, Mommy! I broke them all in half so we wouldn’t have to fight over them!
(Sigh. We each took our half-set and began to color, him a bit more contently than me.)
The first thought to cross my mind as we bumped elbows and noses while we colored was that I would probably only fight to the death over the yellow and pink crayons, at least one color of which he would likely have no interest in using anyway! The second thought to cross my mind was that we would soon be buying a new box of crayons. Fortunately this was just a small set that needed replacing.
Looking at Owen’s actions in hindsight, a few thoughts pop out beyond the fact that I happen to be bugged by the chaos created by broken crayons. Owen thinks much differently than I do. Given that there is a vast age difference, that doesn’t entirely shock me – but I also see a difference in how he thinks in comparison to how I thought at his age. Growing up in a small town in a one-income household, possessions were both few and treasured. To break something of value intentionally would have been far beyond my comprehension of sanity and respect for personal property!
In that regard, many children today show a lack of appreciation for the items they own. Elaborate gifts for birthdays and Christmas have become the new normal, the expectation rather than the exceptional blessing they should be. Because they happen to be part of the modern day culture, for example, many teens feel that iPhones, game consoles, and cars are inherent to who they are, essential for their happiness, and indispensable in their daily activities. As a result, the value of the expensive toys, iPhones, and game consoles is lost, as broken items are typically tossed rather than repaired. Even those broken crayons have value though. They just await an art project of new proportion and different dimension.
On the other hand, I absolutely applaud my six year-old for his ability to both anticipate a problem and create a solution before coming to the table! Owen saw his limited resources and realized immediately that product distribution might pose a challenge. That showed ingenuity beyond the capability of many adults who are no longer able to think outside the crayon box.
I held my tongue that day deciding instead to instill in his being a sense of harmony as we colored shades of scarlet and tints of teal, creating a masterpiece previously unparalleled in his short history.