Our two year old grandson was up from his afternoon nap and full of energy. We started to decorate the Christmas tree and he was eager to help. The artificial tree had lights so we started with the bulbs. His older sister distributed the bulbs over the tree while her brother decorated the lower branches.
When it was time to hang beads on the tree, the six year old did it the traditional way, a string of beads hung over the tips of the branches. She had learned over the years to decorate this way with the beads. Her brother was new to it. He saw what she was doing but liked the beads placed one by one on top of each other on a branch, creating a white pearly heap of beads.
His sister didn’t notice what he was doing until she finished her decorating. “No,” she said to him. “You have to put them on like this,” as she took his pile of beads from the tree and one by one, hung them individually from the branches.
The little boy cried to break his heart. He grabbed beads from the tree and sat on the floor, hiding them under his body.
I explained to his sister this was the way her brother wanted to decorate the tree and it was fine. She had done something similar when she was little.
We gave him a bunch of beads and he decorated the tree in his own way and the beads still are positioned as he placed them. Perfect!
The exchange gave me pause for thought. When and why do we stifle our children’s self expression? Is it a conscious effort to have them conform or is it a societal norm we have absorbed into our psyches and accept as correct? Do we tell them who and how they are or do we allow them to show and tell us? This applies to our children on so many levels.
The two year old expressed himself the only way he knew. It took a minute but we listened to him. I hope his family continues to listen to him for the rest of his life.