Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Power of Puzzles -Your Monthly Parenting Pearl

When I was a young girl, mom would lay out jigsaw puzzles in an open, congregating area of our home.  The sound of cardboard tumbling inside a box enticed us with delight as younger brother and I squealed our amusement.  The fact that 1,000 gloss-coated pieces was a task far over our 7 and 8 year old heads; nor the amount of days it would take to complete it, never subdued our excitement.  All we saw was a work of art painted on top of the box and with that we knew no barriers.  Mom was our leader in this architecture and we listened attentively as she instructed us.

"Find all the edges first." she stated with qualified knowledge.  "We need to make the frame before we can do anything else."  Bent over in cat-shaped glasses, we watched her separate edges from middle pieces, sliding them with speed and agility to their designated spot on the table.  A pro in our eyes, we quickly found ourselves imitating her gestures while searching for straight-sided material.

Taking our turn to piece together and join work, mom would gently chide us, "Don't force them together, when it's the right piece it will fit perfectly."  Eventually the frame was completed and we stood gratified.  "That's enough for tonight," mom said.  "You two get ready for bed.  We'll work on the puzzle again tomorrow."

Tomorrow came and mom arrived home from work to find her children frustrated and near tears as we stood overwhelmed at the table.  "This is too hard" we moaned.  "We'll never get it together".  Mom casually walked by ignoring our hopeless demeanor, strolling to her room to change.  Returning to the table she drew our attention back to the picture on the box.

"Look" she said, pointing to the vibrant portrait.  "We need to start separating the colors into groups -- and then we'll start working on the blue area.  Zeal returned, brother and I worked ferociously now, shifting different colors to their assigned places on the table.  We had an image to follow.  We had a plan.  We had strategy.  Adhering to mom's directives, and keeping our eye on our goal, we began to see the pieces individually, and notice more detail within them until eventually, day by day and week by week, our hundreds of pieces combined to create our magnum opus.  and there it sat -- nearly a month, for us to marvel at, until one afternoon mom asked us to help her put the puzzle back in the box.  A feeling of gloom surrounded me and brother, watching days of struggle being demolished.  "Don't worry" mom smiled, "We'll start a new one soon".  She kept her word.

When my husband was in his early 20s he found himself faced with consequences of poor decisions.  He was unhappy with his life and the way it was going.  Standing in the mirror one day, he took a good look at himself, and a very significant moment overcame him.  Peering closely at the person staring back, he asked out loud, "What kind of man do you want to be?"  That thought provoking question led to several formed scenarios in his mind.  Vision began to take place as he saw the man, the husband and the father that harmonized with the feelings in his heart.  Once he had a reflection of who he wanted to be, he was able to begin the frame work and filling in.  It's remarkable to see how early childhood activities creep up to pattern our experiences.

Going through awkward teenage years, and being a child of divorce, I was all too familiar with the hardships of a broken home, and the prevalent feeling of 'not belonging'.  There was an incompleteness at times that made me feel like a lost piece trying to 'force' myself to 'fit'.  I discovered, as my husband did in those graceless years, that the very trials we are faced with are the pathway to defining and shaping who we are.  Perhaps our younger, questioning "Who am I?" years might not need be so discomfited, if instead we were to ask ourselves, "Who do you want to be?"

A mother myself now, with progress pushing on, I have often overlooked the simple joy of puzzles and the influence they have had in my life.  Families are the very essence of puzzles; Several individuals making a whole.  Watching our children grow, I am overpowered with the influence of how each member shapes our existence, adding dimension, color, depth and intricacies we are not even aware of at first sight.  They give us directions, patterns and pave the opening to different sequences in our lives.  We fill in the spaces as we go, taking on one challenging task at a time.  As one section is complete, (and with a good nights rest) we are refreshed and ready for tomorrow's work.  Day by day and week by week, together as individuals we connect to each other to make one crazy, happy and beautiful life.

My heart believes, that as human beings each one of us is a divine masterpiece.  Although our goals may seem complicated at times, and beyond our capacity to attain, if we remember mom's advice and "look at the box" when mislaid moments arrive, we can get back on course with fresh drawn hope.  Returning often to our childlike faith and enthusiasm, seeing only our objective, we too can know no barriers.  Believe with me.

Puzzles for children


Cleo LeCoq said...

Kids generally throw their books on the floor/wherever. I remember when I had to tidy my books and I ended up looking through all of them and making them into a library (complete with old fashioned card catalogue and borrowing cards!)

I still organise my bookshelf by genre although I have stopped forcing my friends to borrow them so I can use my cool stamps to 'check' them out for them.

R. Weaver said...

Wonderful reflection. This is literally the parable of the jigsaw puzzle - some terrific associations with life here and a message for everyone.

For me, my mother always had me immersed in books - all with wonderful themes and positive messages of morality, courage, perseverance. It expanded my imagination and sense of creativity. She fostered a love for reading and learning - one that I hope to never outgrow.

My parents were also unceasing in their efforts to get us involved. Service projects, day camps, sports, reading sessions at the library, neighborhood activities - there was always something going on, they always knew about it, and we were always volunteered. The feelings of dread of having to do more service slowly but surely shaped a wonderful work ethic and sense of accomplishment in helping others that I hope never abandons me. It's something I also hope to pass along to my son as well...

Molly C. said...

Great post!

kristine carlson said...

Love this blog! It captures so much value to the experience of family and family history. I can just picture the two attentive youngsters working together, brother no doubt a bit more distracted than sister, placing the pieces of the puzzle together! The wisdom and warmth of this analogy to life is well received. Each of us fills a place in our own puzzle of family, community and in the world. We all take up space until we don't any longer. Then, the rest of us are left to fill in that space again never forgetting the piece that we are missing while accepting the way the puzzle changes to form a new picture. Thank you for bringing such a simple task to such deep awareness!

China said...

Kristine, you are doing a wonderful job of filling in the spaces. (And you're right about the sibling being distracted!)