These Are Not Your Flowers, Mom
September 11th, 2014
I took Miss Mouse to a painting workshop recently. She loved it, but it was really hard on me.
The urge to “help” her was excruciating and nearly impossible to contain.
The workshop was designed for kids twelve and under, and the instructor guided them through a shared painting, step by step. They were all creating a field of whimsical, stylized flowers on a green background.
Miss Mouse had a fantastic time and gave herself over utterly to the project. She was focused and intent.
She was also not-quite-six and her hand-eye coordination is still developing. There were paint slops and imperfect circles and renegade flower stems that didn’t quite line up. She couldn’t have cared less, but it made me twitch.
As I looked around the room, I realized most of the parents were participating in the project. Fixing a smudge here. Evening out a circle there. Offering tips to make the picture look “better.”
I decided I didn’t want to do that. There’s a great sign up at a local pottery studio that says: “Do you want to remember how he painted when he was five years old or how you did?”
Great question. I wanted to let Miss Mouse’s project be fully hers. I wanted her to feel confident in her abilities, without me subtly telling her that her work could use improvement (which is the message we send when we “fix” it!). It’s a powerful thing to simply be present while your child discovers something new.
So I refilled her paint tray when she needed it. Cleaned her brush when she asked. And gritted my teeth and admired the awful white “mushrooms” she added at the last minute which totally threw off the aesthetic of the piece.
Because you know what? She loved how they looked and she wanted them there. And she was proud of her accomplishment!