Q: What is the point of this picture?
If your first thought has something to do with Halloween, there'd be some truth in it. I could write a post about how my views on Halloween have changed gradually over time. Where I once was adamantly against the ridiculous celebration of all things departed, I have come to a more gracious resolution in its regard. I still don't put any effort into the day, but my children enjoy it a little and so I was happy to make my littlest son into a raccoon this year -- moreso because it was utilitarian than for any other reason.
The picture could be the starting point for an animal mask tutorial, but that's not my forte. Taking pictures at every step while trying to maintain a cleanliness factor during crafts with young hands is not the kind of plate juggling I'm apt to do. So, that's not it either.
Something in me said, "Take the picture. Remember this."
You see, the mask on the left was made seven years ago, by my first four-year-old son. As we studied popcorn and read through Raccoons and Ripe Corn we made our own paper plate mask and pretended to be raccoons raiding a cornfield. We went to the cornfield maze in Penn Valley, California with my not-yet mobile 9 month old and my whisker-embellished preschooler. We discovered that raccoons would have enjoyed the activity more than young humans because it takes little boys far too long to complete a cornfield maze with no emergency exits.
The mask on the right was made just a few weeks ago by my current four year old son. (My middle son, didn't get to do this project when he was four because our library at that location didn't carry the book). The process was fun for him, but the wearing of the mask was not to his liking. We did not take it to a cornfield maze. We attached a tale to a gray sweatsuit and made it his costume for Halloween... because we'd already made the mask and we needed a way to use it. We discovered that it's really not a lot of fun to wear masks. Tails on the other hand...
And yet, seeing these projects side by side evokes something. There are seven years between their creators. A different world for one son than is shaping up for the other. My youngest is no less us, but he will never know what it was like to live in California like his brothers remember, to fly with less airport security, to have a daddy with ten toes... so many things have changed. I have changed. All things considered it's odd that I even pursue these identical moments at home with them -- reusing the same curriculum for the third time now -- when so much of my mentality and circumstance is different from before. However, I am still moved to teach them the principles and structures that they can hang their curiosities and strengths upon. These masks say to me, "At the same time in their different lives I was there next to them guiding their explorations and opening a door for learning. The same for one as for the other. No one gets shortchanged."
In a way this picture represents that no matter where their paths take them, they did start in the same place. I've sent my oldest son on to middle school now. I've seen the development of his psyche, his intellect, and his heart. I've seen that homeschooling works and that the youngest years are the years of absorption. The boys will only look more and more distinct as time progresses. But at one time, each was four and was given the same opportunity to fully become himself.