A few years ago, when I first heard Randy Pausch's Last Lecture, I was moved to tears. Partly for the tragic horror it would be to face mortality and its consequences as a parent, but partly also for the magnificence of Randy Pausch's mother in letting him draw all over his bedroom walls.
"When I was in high school, I decided to paint my bedroom. I always wanted a submarine and an elevator. And the great thing about this is they let me do it, and they didn’t get upset about it. And it’s still there. If you go to my parent’s house, it’s still there. And anybody who is out there who is a parent, if your kids want to paint their bedroom, as a favor to me, let them do it. It’ll be OK. Don’t worry..."That quote has come to my mind many times. When my kids have asked to hang a particularly ugly poster on the wall in their bedroom or begged to paint their room a hideous color. Without fail, each and every time, I've said no. And patted myself on the back for not letting them make decisions I was confident they'd regret later.
Deep down inside, it's haunted me.
So this weekend, when I announced that I would be painting their walls as part the The Remodel, I was fully prepared to say no when they asked to help.
But I thought of Pausch, his mother, and I somehow found myself saying yes instead.
In the beginning, it was all I could do to not take over the job myself. Every fiber of my being cried out against this loss of control. When I stepped in large gobs of paint spilled on the floor. When I caught their paint drips racing down baseboards, and discovered I had caught them too late.
Most especially when one of them fell off a five-foot ladder, landing in a painful heap on the hard floor.
But once I'd made peace with the inevitable paint smeared on the ceiling, the paint dripping down the closet corners, and the extra hours it took for all of this, I noticed something.
I noticed the eagerness in their eyes as they talked about where they'd place the furniture in their new rooms. I noticed their smiles and laughter, as they sang along to the music. I noticed the teamwork as they helped each other navigate tricky angles. I noticed the ownership and pride on their faces at being given the responsibility of such a grown up task. I noticed us working, side-by-side, as our happy chatter passed the time.
And I noticed something I had missed all along: It's really not such a bad thing to let your kids paint on the walls after all.
And it'll always be okay.
Because the things that matter are not drips in the corner or smudges on the ceiling.
The things that matter are the three wonderfully perfect little people who put them there.