Magna Doodle


I have never taught him how to write his letters.

I’ve tried a few times, but he’d much rather do the mazes in his junior kindergarten workbook. Privately, I agree. Tracing endless rows of letters doesn’t appeal to me, either.

I’m not worried about his progress. He can count to 318 in the time it takes me to fold two loads of laundry. He can read a few words. He draws people and machines, and makes up games, and builds Lego, and attaches a car to the tow truck with a complicated series of elastics. Never mind, Mom, I figured it out! 

Kids learn so much on their own, especially through play; which is why I smiled to myself when he brought the Magna Doodle upstairs for his quiet time. I cracked the door open to check on him a few minutes later, and he had the pen in his hand with an ABC book open beside him. 

He jumped up as if I’d caught him sneaking jellybeans. “DON’T LOOK!! I’ll show you when I’m done!”

I winked and backed out to fold another load of laundry in the hallway, remembering when my sister Christine and I would create “cubicles” of books on the kitchen table so nobody could see our paper-and-glue crafting until we were finished. I’m a recovering perfectionist, so I know where he gets it from.

I had just straightened a stack of baby onesies when the door opened and he stepped out. He looked crestfallen. 

He said in a tiny voice, “I actually can’t show you, Mommy, because I’m not very good at this.”

It’s amazing how many thoughts can flash through a person’s brain in a split second. What do I say? I cannot mess up this moment. Help!! He is so tender. I want to protect him forever. 

And I know exactly how he feels.

“Hey,” I garbled, grasping for time, “come here and let me hug you.” We sat like that for a moment. 

“Can I see it anyways?”

“But I already erased it.” Of course he did, because he’s a small version of me.

How many times have I written a blog post, only to second-guess it until the moment had passed? How many times have I wanted to say something to my husband, only to clam up because I wasn’t sure it would come out right? Why do I procrastinate on those half-finished art projects?

I’m not sure what I said to Caleb, exactly: something about being so glad that he tried, that trying is more important anyway, and that I love him a lot. He brightened and started to run back.

“Hey,” I called. “There’s one more thing. You know how you aren’t very good at it yet? Well, you just haven’t had enough time to practice!” 

A huge smile broke over his face as he said, “Oh yeah,” and closed the door. 

Is he trying again right now? Maybe. But one thing is certain: that pep talk was for both of us.