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In the fall of 2007, Randy Pausch’s “Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” made him an international symbol of strength and hope. Dr. Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, already well known for his captivating lectures, was dying from metastatic pancreatic cancer.

Pausch continued his insightful lectures in this phase sharing his stories with others about living life with childlike wonder.  Although he was hesitant about taking away precious time from his family, he knew this would be a way of video cataloging wisdom for his three young children. In fact, his video has been viewed by millions online.Photo: www.wisdomportal.com

I remember listening to Pausch during that time, and his words moved me to tears. Years later, I can vividly recall how he spoke so endearingly of his parents—telling a story of how they allowed him to paint on his bedroom walls.

“Anybody out there who is a parent, if your kids want to paint their bedrooms, as a favor to me, let them do it. It’ll be OK,” said Pausch, whose lecture was also published into a book.

Dr. Pausch passed away in July 2008 at the age of 47, yet his words echoed in my mind recently when I overheard parents discussing some of the messy inconveniences of having young children. Believe me, I’m part of that group, too. As parents, many of us can relate to spilled paint, balls of dried up play dough caked in the carpet or hundreds of Lego pieces scattered across the floor. On those days, it may serve us some solace to keep Pausch in the forefront of our thoughts.

It’s not easy. I still have delusions of my house looking like a spread in the Pottery Barn catalog. With three young children, the piles of clutter certainly add up. Lately, I’m finding scraps of paper everywhere, and pens and crayons in their bedrooms—usually forbidden by their dad and me. So when I recently found a paper with the messy scribbling of my son’s attempt at writing his first name, I stared at it. How was it possible that this little person--who it seems like just yesterday was learning to feed himself and sit up--was now writing his name?

When your children are in school or quietly napping, you may notice a note, drawing or painting that one of them did, and it will probably melt your heart, too. When things are quiet in my house, I look at these items and realize that my children created them with no instruction, or any preconceived ideas of what constitutes good art. They tapped their own budding creativity, paving the path for their brains to make bigger decisions in the future.

See, Dr. Pausch really got what life was about. The material things are nice, and most of us enjoy the idea of a well-decorated home, with all of its pretty accompaniments, but Pausch knew that experiences are what matter most. He never forgot how his parents, despite a fairly conservative upbringing, allowed him to be himself, expressing the creativity that would later earn him a Ph.D. His childhood memories survived this time of battling cancer, giving him a happy respite to share with others. All those years later, he remembered how his parents truly understood him.

Let your children paint and mix the colors of the play dough. Let them take walks in the backyard while it’s raining. Let them build a habitat for a slug. The memories they will give your children in the years to come are worth the minor inconveniences they pose today. It will be OK.


Julia Sherwin is a freelance writer and mother of three who lives in Chester County. She is a former college journalism instructor who enjoys running, biking, swimming, traveling and cooking.

Email her at jsherwin73@gmail.com  and followe her on Twitter @JuliaSherwinPoPYou can also follow her other parenting articles at juliasherwin.wordpress.com.

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Photo: wisdomportal.com