The Color Purple and a Lesson in Parenting

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.” 

― Alice Walker, The Color Purple

At the beginning of the summer I promised Maddie that we’d paint her bedroom. We had purchased a new comforter and shams–with bright turquoise, purple and slightly-less-than-neon green. Here we were the week before school started and nary a wall had been touched.

So, while Scott was out of town I hauled EVERYONE to the paint store–okay, to Walmart–and we found the perfect purple that matched the underside of her comforter. THIS IS IT! she exclaimed. And, insisting that she didn’t need to first try it out on the wall, we bought two gallons of the Radiant Royal Purple.

Scott painted one wall of it when he returned. And, one wall of it was PERFECT. Just the deep, rich color made not only the white edged window pop, but the green of the trees outside more vibrant.

“We LOVE IT!” both Maddie and I gushed. He shook his head and continued to paint the rest of the room.

And, when the ENTIRE bedroom had the color EVERYWHERE, I walked in and gasped for air. “Maddie, I really think this is too much purple. I can barely breathe in here. What if we go a few shades lighter on a couple of these walls?”

“NO! I LOVE IT JUST LIKE THIS!” she retorted and dug in her heels.

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And, so I fell into the parenting pitfall of the battle of the wills. Hers for independence to make and stick to a decision–the purple color she chose for her bedroom–and mine to save some continuity (and breathing ability) in my house.

So I brought in reinforcements. The Heathers. My friend, Heather, who just went through the angst of choosing house colors but whose choices are absolutely beautiful, and my neighbor Heather, who is like a favorite hip aunt to Maddie.

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The first Heather asked incredulously after I explained the situation, “You let her pick out her own color? Didn’t you tell me to let my kids do that, too?” And then she proceeded to tell me about a hot pink bedroom she had growing up and how she LOVED it!

“Just look at the room,” I pleaded. “It needs a few walls of a lighter shade to balance out this purple.”

So, Heather peeked into the room with Maddie as a proud tour guide. She turned to Maddie and asked with that wonderful voice that makes a child feel like she is understood. “Wow! Do you like it Maddie?” And when Maddie said that she did, Heather  immediately responded, “Well, then I think this is what color your room should be!”

The other Heather walked into the room and after exclaiming that it was purple, said, “I just love this color! It really fits you!”

WHAT?!

It wasn’t until I talked to my mother-in-law the next day (while on my hands and knees edging around the baseboards)and told her the situation that she just laughed. “I remember my kids painting their rooms,” she reminisced. “Every summer I’d let the kids choose what they wanted to do with their bedrooms. It gave them a sense of ownership.”

“Anyway,” she added,  “how are they going to learn what they like and what they don’t like unless they pick things for themselves and try them out?”

And, that was the line I, as a parent, needed to hear. How do we learn what we like and don’t like unless we are allowed the independence and the confidence to decide and live with a it a while.

So on Saturday, while Dylan napped, Maddie and I finished putting on the first coat. (Purple, by the way, takes more than one coat!) She actually rolled a couple walls while I edged. I turned up loud the Mary Chapin Carpenter Pandora station while we worked.

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We brushed and rolled on purple paint, all the while listening to a woman sing that her man, “. . . loves me just the way I am.” While another singer/songwriter bragged about the dust her tires left as she drove away from an indecisive lover. There is nothing like female country roots singers telling women the way it is–and how to be strong.

Maybe being strong with paint color choices is a good first lesson. . .and, there is nothing more empowering than a young girl choosing her bedroom’s color and painting a couple walls of it on herself.

I hesitated only slightly when Dylan, needing new shoes, decided that  he absolutely HAD TO HAVE THE NEON GREEN ONES.  I heard my mother-in-law: “. . .how is he going to know what he likes or doesn’t . .?”

They’re pretty hard not to notice in the front pew of church, but then again, my family isn’t the most blend in the crowd type of family anyway.

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I am a mother of two sets of twins and a singleton. I explore the wild world of multiples and provide resources for other parents of multiples.
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