Column - The parenting puzzleRaising children is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.
By: Jo Colvin, Alexandria Echo Press
Raising children is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.
You open the box and see this jumbled mess of pieces that you know will end up making a beautiful picture. There are no directions, and you’re not quite sure where to start. You take this pile and start putting the pieces together as best as you can, instinct your only guide.
You painstakingly search through and find each edge piece, finally creating a frame in which to build your masterpiece. You can only hope the frame is a solid and sturdy base from which the inside can grow.
Then you dive in enthusiastically and start working on the inside. You pick certain sections or colors, like a flower or bird or dolphin, and get totally engrossed in forming that small part of the picture. When it’s done you think, “That is the most perfect flower ever! No other part of this puzzle can be this beautiful.” You want to stop and enjoy it because you’re sure it will be your favorite “phase,” but you can’t because the rest of the puzzle beckons you to go on and watch it take shape.
Then you do the next flower and you are amazed because you think, “No, THIS is the most beautiful part. I enjoyed putting this together even more than the last.” And you want time to freeze. You think, “Can anything be better than this flower?”
But you can’t help yourself and you excitedly go on to the next flower. Each stage passes, and as much as you want to slow down and enjoy it, it’s so exciting building it that you can’t wait to see the next part develop.
This puzzle you are putting together becomes an intense labor of love and you fall under its spell. There are times when it frustrates you and you can’t seem to find any pieces that fit. There are times that you go about it the wrong way. You make mistakes and it isn’t turning out the way you think it should and you think, “What have I done? I really screwed this up.” But then as quickly as it went awry, the pieces start falling quickly back into place.
As badly as you want it to get done, you don’t ever want to see it end because putting it together has been so fun. You get so excited when the puzzle is nearing completion, the entire picture becoming almost clear. You work faster and faster so you can see the finished product. All too soon, you get to the last piece of the puzzle. You are filled with excitement, anticipating putting in that very last piece. You want so badly to put it in, yet you dread it because then you know it is over.
In a bittersweet move, you place the last piece into the puzzle.
It is done. It is beautiful. You love this puzzle and the accomplishment is so rewarding. It is now whole, a complete picture – and YOU did it. You love it so much that you want to slather it with that puzzle glue so it holds together forever and you always have it there to look at and admire and marvel at its beauty.
But you know that if you cover it with glue, you can never experience the joy of its growth ever again. It would hang on a wall somewhere gathering dust, its edges curling up, its vibrant colors gradually fading away. Never again could it bring someone the joy of seeing it change and learn and grow. Never again could it inspire awe in those who work with it and bring it to life.
With a heavy heart you put the last piece of the puzzle in, you admire it for as long as you can, and then you break it apart. You have to say goodbye and let it go. You have to remind yourself that one day soon, you’ll see this puzzle again and you’ll get to do it all over again – learning and growing and loving and seeing the picture form a whole new way.
I’m putting in two last pieces of the puzzle this year – one child starting grad school and one his senior year of high school. I’m putting in each piece with that same combination of excitement and dread as finishing a puzzle. After this year, their pictures are complete.
Now if I can only stay away from the glue.
“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.