I have absolutely no spatial reasoning. When I was younger we used to take an exam that required us to visualize how a paper would be folded and figure out what the next step was and what the finished product would look like.
Let’s just say my gift is words and not math.
If I read a set of instructions they better have pictures and concise written instructions. Most times I end up having someone else walk through the instructions with me, because not only do I need to read, see and follow along, it all works better if I can watch a demonstration. I’m all the learning styles wrapped up in a big ball of impatience.
When it comes to creating a 3-D object I’m a firm believer in the school of good enough, or don’t even try. Anytime I read a sewing pattern successfully (or close enough) I do a happy dance, because I really can’t read instructions and visualize a final product.
Geometry was a very dark period in my life.
Recently, I got into my head I wanted to make origami paper cranes for Christmas. I saw some online and they were gorgeous. Rebecca has been making them for about two years, so I figured if she could do them, I could YouTube it and figure it out myself.
What ended up happening was thirty minutes later I had a balled up piece of paper I was throwing at the disembodied voice on my laptop. Those YouTube demonstrators are so smug with their ability to see shapes and manipulate paper with their fingers.
After a few failed attempts I gave up and put aside the idea. Until yesterday. Yesterday afternoon we were having a lazy Sunday. Isaac was sick and Michael had been running all over Cleveland and finally sat down with a book to read. Margo was chattering to herself in a chair and Rebecca had paper strewn all over the living room floor. We have an art supply cabinet in our living room that has been a godsend on snowy, rainy and too hot days. It has paper, paint, paper hole punches, markers, colored pencil, finger paint, acrylic paints, etc. If it is a normal art supply, it is in there.
I found some cranes that Rebecca had folded, some origami paper and asked, “Hey Rebecca, could you show me how you make these?”
“You don’t know how?” Her eyes lit up. The thought of knowing something I didn’t was exciting.
I shook my head, “I couldn’t figure it out on my own. I ended up yelling at Youtube.”
Michael laughed because 1) He undertands my lack of spatial reasoning knows no bounds and 2) He’s seen me flustered and yelling at inanimate objects. 3) Even if he knew how to make the origami cranes, there was no way he would show me and get yelled at for the next hour.
Rebecca didn’t have a clue what she was getting herself into.
First off, that girl is patient, which is incredible to see that side of her. Her teachers always told me how patient she is in school, always spending time with another classmate who needed help. I don’t always see that at home with her siblings because they are, well, siblings.
She sat in front of the fire with me and went slowly through each step. When I folded the paper the wrong way or couldn’t remember the next step, she would take her paper, undo a couple steps and walk me through it. Again. And again. And again.
After an hour I could do it.
And when I thanked her she said, “It is so cool to be able to teach you something. Because you’re the mom.”
I laughed, but as she headed up to bed, I thought about that simple statement. Can our kids never be the teachers? Are we always the ones showing them the way? Isn’t there room for them to teach us once in a while?
Imagine what it does to their confidence to realize that they can help their parents.
I saw that in Rebecca’s eyes. Not that she didn’t gain anything out of the experience. It allowed me to show her my vulnerability, how I struggle with something, and that I can ask for help even when that help comes from someone I typically take care of. But the bigger lesson was for me. I put her, ahead of me. In my mind that is the definition of dignity, and I got to experience that with my daughter yesterday.
So often as parents we think about what we have to teach our kids in the short eighteen years they are with us. Everything we want them to be, to think about, to live. Everyday is a lesson and they are they students.
What I learned yesterday is sometimes as a parent, I can be the student, and that allowing my child to be the teacher is better than any lesson I can impart. It shows that I trust her, I am interested in something she is, and that no matter her age, she is important and has something to give to others.
Kids can teach us parents. If we stop talking for a second, and start listening.