My four-year-old daughter has always loved puzzles. Whenever “PawPaw” (my dad) comes to visit us, it is not unusual for them to put together several puzzles a day.
I always marveled at the way they huddle shoulder to shoulder examining each piece, attempting to place it securely in its destined spot. If it doesn’t fit, one of them says, “Nope, not there.” Then they happily continue searching for the right combination. If it does fit, there is always a mini celebration of high fives between a big hand and a little hand.
It had always been a secret relief of mine that my dad loved to do puzzles with my child. I see the great pleasure on his face as he teaches her to organize the same-colored pieces and how to look for the magical “straight edge” pieces.
I do not share the same joy of puzzles. I have never enjoyed doing puzzles. I have always convinced myself that my brain is just not wired to do puzzles.
That was before I became Hands Free. Now I call myself out on those lame excuses. I have faced the reality that those empty justifications are total BS.
Sometimes the truth hurts. Sometimes the truth is brutal. Sometimes the truth is hard to face. But I have learned that the truth is what helps me grow into the person I want to become. So here is the REAL truth as to why I didn’t do puzzles with my puzzle-loving child…
Puzzles required me to stop “being productive.” I couldn’t get X, Y, and Z done while completing a puzzle.
Puzzles required me to be patient. I could not accomplish a puzzle in five minutes and mark it off “the list.”
Puzzles required solitary focus on one task. I could not accomplish a puzzle and multi-task.
Puzzles required mistakes through trial and error. I could not complete a puzzle without putting the wrong pieces in the wrong places several times.
Puzzles required this compulsive Type A super-planner-organizer multi-tasker extraordinaire to slow down, focus, and BE in the moment.
And that is precisely what I did.
As if my daughter had sensed the change that had come over her mother, she asked me to do a puzzle with her. With a huge smile on her face, her two little hands proudly held up the 60 piece puzzle that her PawPaw and MeMe had given her for Christmas.
To be honest, just the sight of a puzzle with that number of pieces (which I uneasily noticed were very similar in color and pattern) caused me to feel a bit woozy. My former drill sergeant inner voice (which still manages to push productivity despite how much I try to silence it) wondered why it couldn’t be the Buzz and Woody 22 piece puzzle.
I took a deep breath, and we spread out the pieces…all 60 of them. Completion required two thirty-minute work periods. During those time periods,
-My daughter glanced at my legs several times. Even though my troublesome right knee did not allow me to sit “criss-cross applesauce” as instructed, my daughter was visibly pleased to see her Mama sitting there on the floor with her. Her perma-smile said it all.
-When she handed me a puzzle piece, she started calling me by my first name. Instead of “Mama” or “Mom,” she said, “Here you go, Rachel.” Suddenly we had become best friends who were on a first-name basis.
-When I got several difficult pieces in their proper spots she said, “You are doing a great job, Rachel.” She was the puzzle expert and I was her student passing the test with flying colors.
-My child gave me high fives throughout the puzzle completion process. Even if we hadn’t completed the puzzle, I could clearly see that my daughter felt my mere efforts were worthy enough for celebration.
Interestingly enough, while I was going through this Hands Free experience with my daughter, one of my readers was having one of her own. Both of our stories so beautifully illustrate the message of today’s post that I am compelled to share. I thank this mother for sharing her story with me and for allowing me to share it now with you.
Here is her story in her own words:
Because my son is eleven-years-old, he tends to be into the “shoot ‘em up” video games, as well as football and basketball video games that do not appeal to me. He has asked me several times to play with him, but I always say I will watch him play. Then I end up on Facebook while I sit in the room with him. But recently one evening, I ran down the basement steps and said, “What game are we going play?” He paused his game, looked me in the face, and with a surprised voice he said, “You WANT to play?”
When I said yes, he grabbed me and kissed me. Then he handed me a controller. He was so patient with me (as I have no clue how to play). He kept looking at me as if he couldn't believe I was there. This was a “Sunset Moment” I will never forget.
You see, it does not matter if we are talking puzzles or video games, playing catch or practicing gymnastics, baking bread or playing chess.
It does not matter if we are talking six-year-old girls or eleven-year-old boys, active toddlers or busy teenagers, preschoolers or middle schoolers.
There is one thing that holds true for all children, regardless of age, interests, gender or personality:
Children simply want us to spend time with them.
Children simply want to show us what they know and can do.
Children simply want us to be a part of their world.
Even if putting together a 750-piece Lego set is not your thing. Even if playing Barbie dolls puts you to sleep. Even if it means listening to the latest song your child downloaded from i-Tunes that doesn’t really sound like music at all.
Just do it.
Do it for your child.
Isn’t that reason enough?
When is the last time you did something outside your comfort zone or area of interest just so you could spend time with your child (or spouse or significant other)? If it happened recently, I would love to hear about it. If you can’t think of anything, the solution is simple. Just do it. Do it now before they do it with someone else.