My children have been painting since they were babies. As younger children they would have a tendency to get very messy while painting and most of the time I would just allow them to paint naked rather than have to wash them and their clothing. They would inevitably paint each other, full body style, after which they'd end-up in the bath while I cleaned up after them.
As they got older I introduced them to more professional types of paint. I explained to them that it is not the same as the kid paint and under no circumstances are they to treat it as such, i.e., paint each other with it and otherwise waste it. They have adhered to my rules for the past two years and as a result I have them allowed them more freedoms (like leaving them downstairs to paint while I do some work from home on my computer). Well, last night they forgot themselves and decided to get naked and paint each other, head to toe, with my good, acrylic ($25.99/tube) paint.
Well, when they called me down to look at them, knowing how I would always laugh and compliment them on their artwork when they did it with their paint, they were very surprised when I yelled at them. I try not to yell at them very often and when I do, and it's really unwarranted or just overblown, I always apologize. Well this time I was delayed in my apology, and after carrying them into the bathtub to get washed up I went in my bedroom to cool down. I overheard the following conversation:
Sami: "Mama hates us."
Ab: "We're horrible children."
Sami: "She didn't even apologize to us for yelling like she usually does."
Ab: "That's because we deserved it."
Ab: "Let's clean the bathtub so she doesn't have to."
Sami: "Yeah, and we'll clean the rest of the bathroom too."
Ab: "We can have a cleaning company."
Sami: "Yeah and we can call it..."
Ab: "Just Like New"
Sami: "Yeah, Just Like New."
Then they actually did proceed to clean the entire bathtub (which was a considerable task because they were covered head to toe in paint) and were about to clean the rest of the bathroom when I stopped them and told them to get ready for bed instead. But I thanked them for the cleaning job and gave them a brief refresher course in the reasons why we don't use Mama's paint in the same way we are allowed to use the kids' paint.
I reassured them of my undying love and devotion and further reminded them that doing a bad thing doesn't make them bad people. Mistakes are absolutely allowed and as long as we make an honest effort to learn from them, they can actually be an important tool for personal growth.
I don't feel good about yelling at them the way I did but it was very interesting to overhear their dialogue and witness their willingness to take responsibility for and even clean up the mess they made, and then even find a way to enjoy the self-imposed punishment.
I wonder if they learned as much as I did last night.