While cooking dinner I get stamping pads and make a couple of potato stamps for the little guy. He haven’t stamped before, at least not with me, so I show him how to do it and ask to stamp on the paper, not on the table.
In ten minutes he brings the stamps back to me and tells that he wants to stamp with his hands. I say, “no, you are not supposed to stamp with your hands”.
“Waarom niet?” he asks, with that sweet inquisitive voice that we’ve learnt to live with in the last couple of months.
And then it hits me: why not?
Because you are supposed to stamp with stamps, not with hands? Because there will be a lot of mess and I’m busy? Because I said so?
I tend to question things taken for granted and authority myself, but he takes it further, questioning things I wouldn’t think about and my authority. I want him to learn making his own choices, but I also want him to learn that there are rules in this world and there are others to consider. I don’t know if the stains that will come from his stamping pads are washable and I can only assume that it’s safe on his skin. And I have dinner to cook, so I can’t closely supervise him to make sure that everything around him wouldn’t get colored.
I think again – about the things I want him to learn the most. Not how to stamp “right”. Not that I’m the boss to be listened to. Not that the rules have to be followed even if they don’t make any sense. I want him to be creative, not being afraid to make his own choices, but also to consider the impact of his actions, to take care of others in the process and to take the responsibility for what comes out of it.
So I tell him it’s ok to stamp with his hands. I explain that in then there are higher chances of staining his clothes and the things around. I ask him to put a smock, to be careful and to tell me when he is done, so we can wash the hands immediately.
And he does.
Nothing scary happens, just a bit of color on the table – but this is something that happens every day. He comes to wash his hands and I share the worry that we wouldn’t be able to wash the color off. We start washing and then I share his delight when the color disappears. So little to pay for the fun of discovery…
I can only hope that he learns his lessons, but I know I can learn mine.
I leave stamping pads at his table. Next time he doesn’t ask, he doesn’t put a smock, but he comes to us trying not to touch anything with his blue hands when he is done. And he tells the story about his painting – big waves, sun and a bear on a boat.