My son is a lover of rules and rituals. I know most kids crave them, but my son not only thrives on them, he relies on them and if one thing is off, the whole day is off. Sometimes, I would fear he lived in the world of rules too much. Things that are new are almost always a frightening battle for him. I cannot fully explain just how LARGE of a battle even the slightest tiniest little change from routine could be. As someone who loves systems but also thrives on impulse and creativity, it’s honestly been a challenge for me to try to explain how breaks from routine can be a good thing, how drawing outside of the lines can lead to masterpieces.
About a month ago, we were playing with a stacking puzzle he’s had for a while now. Everytime, he has to recreate the puzzle exactly as it’s seen in the picture on the box, because that’s how all other puzzles are done, right? Well this one is created so you can stack the puzzle in many different ways – the possibilities are endless! So on this one day, I was shocked and pleased to hear my son utter the words “mom, I don’t need to make the puzzle look like the picture. I can stack them any way I want!” Oh the joy! Those are the exact words I have been saying to him since he got the puzzle! I watched as he excitedly created not one but three different stacks, moving the animal pieces here and there, trying different combinations. He seemed so liberated, so free, so happy, so… confident.
And that’s when it hit me: we have the most ability to tap into our creativity when we are confident, when we feel empowered to draw outside of that line. I’ve been fortunate to be one of 10 Faculty Moms working with Pepperidge Farm’s Fishful Thinking program, and one of the five key ingredients the research shows most positive, optimistic kids possess is empowerment: believing that they CAN. That’s exactly what I saw when he did that puzzle that day: he was empowered to do his own thing.
Over the past year, my son’s confidence has slowly been building. Being a big brother has helped give him that: he’s good at it, really great at it actually. Big Brother is the role my son has always been meant to play, and he thrives in that role. As his mom, watching his confidence grow has been so incredible! But that day, that moment when the light bulb went off and he realized that hey, he really can stack the puzzle any way he wanted… well, it was one of those magical moments that mamas remember forever.