Painting Rocks and Creating Little Moments That Matter

There’s a line of dialogue from the movie “20th Century Women” that struck me when I first heard it, and continues to stay with me today. Annette Bening says to a friend of her teenage son:

“You get to see him out in the world, as a person. I never will.”

I think about this so much as Sophie — who is now a full-fledged tween turning 10 later this year — grows and matures every day. She’s no longer the kid I wrote about last year or even six months ago. She’s becoming her own person, independent and wants to make her own decisions. Her interests have changed. The clothes she picks are trendy. She likes pop music, watches YouTube and creates Musical.ly videos. Even the things she recently loved doing — like playing at the park — are not as fun to her as FaceTiming her friends.

This is all normal of course, and part of growing up. But as a parent, it’s a strange thing to observe — your own kid changing before your eyes; becoming her own person, independent from me. And that’s when I think about Annette Bening’s line and I realize I won’t see her as a person in the world without the lens of mom. And it makes me a little sad.

I wonder if we’ll continue to bond. How will our relationship change? How can I foster her independence while also staying close? Will I be a good mom as she gets older? I worry she won’t want to spend time with me, or do the little things and partake in traditions we always did.

So last Sunday afternoon when we had some free time, I told Sophie we were going to work on a summer list activity: paint rocks. After a few heavy sighs from Sophie and exasperation she wasn’t going to use the iPad, she went into the backyard to gather rocks while I set up the paint and brushes on the kitchen table.

And then we sat together and painted colorful rocks with designs that ranged from rainbows to mountains, and a mushroom house to a Bacon Man (Sophie’s creation). We painted and talked and laughed, and listened to Mary Chapin Carpenter. And when we finished we had a pile of beautifully-designed rocks, and feelings of happiness.

Sophie may be growing up and not wanting to spend time with me in the same way as before. But it’s moments like this I try to hold on to as they occur. She still asks (almost daily), “Which rock is your favorite?” (hers is Bacon Man, of course!). I like to think the time meant something to her, too.

The idea behind the painted rocks is to hide them in neighborhood parks for others to discover. We’ve hidden three so far, and plan to hide more. But for now, the rocks sit on the center of our kitchen table — a lovely reminder of a bonding moment between mom and daughter. I’ll take it!

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