When I was in kindergarten I colored a dreidel. To me, it was just another shape outlined in thick black ink that I was meant to color in with whatever crayons I chose.
To my teacher, who happened to be an artist, it was amazing.
My mother worked in the school so the teacher ran to get her.
She pulled her into the classroom and proudly showed her my dreidel.
My mother looked at the twenty-five dreidels hanging on the wall, saw that mine was, indeed, the best colored, and sort of shrugged her shoulders helplessly.
The teacher couldn’t understand why my mother wasn’t oozing with pride over her superior daughter.
My mother couldn’t understand why it was incredible that I colored in the lines. She’d seen me do it hundreds of times before.
My mother is my best critic. I love sending her my writings and look forward to her replies. She always has a comment on a particular sentence or description that she liked and tells me how she relates to what I wrote. My mother communicates her feelings much easier through writing, as do I (see How I Met My Mother). I feel validated by her responses and connect with her through those e-mail exchanges.
My childhood, regardless of how things stand now, helps me shape how I mother my children. I use my mother’s mistakes to fight my natural tendencies.
The dreidel remains as a witness to the words that never voiced themselves to my five year old ears. She didn’t have to say it was beautiful. I was secure enough in my abilities to know I hadn’t gone out of the lines, but maybe a comment on the choice of colors would have made me feel as proud as my teacher wanted me to feel.
The lesson I learned actualized itself this week. My four year old drew another picture. She draws all the time. If I let her, she would sit at the table all day with her crayons, markers and pencils, creating masterpieces. She is extremely talented, and way beyond her years in the creativity department. I’m not surprised. She is not exceeding any expectations. She’s my daughter, my mother’s granddaughter, my artist grandmother’s granddaughter – of course she can draw.
But I don’t say that to her. I gush at every single thing she makes. I pick something specific to talk about and make sure to save it to show Abba when he comes home. I am her number one supporter and because of all the painful silences in my childhood, she knows that. When she tells me that there’s no girl in the world like her because she’s mine, I know that I will never stop talking.
Together, my little girl and I are taking that dreidel down and making it count.