Sweeping lines, colorful dots, and textured swishes covered the cardboard canvas. I thought it was rustic and beautiful, in that innocent way that every child’s art is beautiful. But my daughter did not agree. In a fit of pre-teen rage, she threw the painting on the ground.
“Don’t throw it away!” I begged her.
But she screamed and dropped it on the floor anyway—face down, unfortunately.
I told her, “Maybe you just need to let it dry for a bit, and then you can add another layer of paint.”
“Why would I add another layer? I already hate it.”
“Because maybe it’s not finished,” I told her. “You can let it dry, and then you can paint over the parts you don’t like.”
Meanwhile, my 15 year-old son is busy working on a project in our home office. He’s come up with yet another new idea for a company he wants to build. His newest entrepreneur endeavor—fragrance mogul extraordinaire—is not going well. Each new scent reminds us of either cleaning supplies or the hairspray aisle of the local drugstore.
He’s getting frustrated.
“Keep working,” I tell him. “Fragrances need layers. You’re not done yet.”
These conversations remind me of a scene from a movie that replayed over and over in our minivan when our kids were little:
So many wonderful things are made up of layers: wine, chocolate, sandwiches. Parfaits.
We know this, but Donkey reminds us anyway, “Who doesn’t love a parfait?”
Or how about this one:
The best characters, like onions and trifles, have layers.
The layers make us interesting.
We’re quick to throw away the things we don’t like.
There’s a hole in our favorite jeans. Toss.
Leftovers in the fridge. Toss.
A bad day. Toss
That art project currently sits atop the desk in my kitchen. It’s colorful and bright, and even though she didn’t add another layer, it reminds me of summer, of a lazy afternoon we spent crafting with materials we found in nature.
And my son’s fragrance experiment is keeping him occupied in a way I never expected. He wants to create something lasting. Who am I to argue with that? The smell coming from his makeshift office lets me know he’s still working.
The photo that illustrates this post is of the Peruvian Painted Mountain. What you see is layer upon layer of millions of years of history. Geologists tell us that each geological layer helps us better understand the world.
Nature is cool like that.
I want my children to know that their mistakes, though disappointing to them, are often the very things that make me love them more. The imperfections tell me something about their personality. I am a geologist learning how to better understand their world.
Layer upon layer, each its own sweet gift, a tapestry of a person’s history, reflections, experiences, and dreams.
First tries are not meant to be perfect. It’s easy to give up when things don’t go our way. But there’s beauty in the process. Beauty IS the process. It’s what it means to BECOME.