It’s cute, and developmental, and important, and precious. But not all of it. Not all the time. There should be quotas.
My daughter Penny has so many talents. She makes up and sings little songs. She has a wonderful sense of style and already dresses better than her mother or me. She is a great big sister to her brother, Simon. She’s been breezing through 50 piece puzzles since she was three years old (she’s four now). What I’m trying to say is that she’s smart, funny, creative, and beautiful. Like most parents, I could (and sometimes do) go on for hours about how awesome she is. But this post is about something else: her artwork is for shit.
That is a horrible thing to say. I’ve never really said it out loud before. (And saying it on the internet is very loud.) My wife and I have whispered it to each other. We’ve thrown out countless drawings, feeling SO BAD each and every time. It wasn’t our fault. First of all, there’s only so much space on the fridge. And second, the drawings all looked pretty much the same. Penny described them as rainbows, but sometimes they were just different colored lines and other times different colored blobs. How many deconstructed rainbows can one parent pretend to love?
It’s difficult in any stage of a child’s development not to compare her to other children of a similar age. We all do it. There are books devoted to the subject. But the books are just guidelines. And they don’t really cover amorphous subjects like, you know, artistic talent. At least I don’t think they do. I pretty much stopped reading them at month six of child number one. But, when I saw what her friends were drawing – recognizable people with circles for faces, eyes & smiles – I felt the sharp sting of jealousy, followed by the sharper sting of guilt. My kid is amazing. Who cares if she’s not an artist?
I started blaming myself for her perceived shortcoming. Maybe I did too much roughhousing with her & not enough coloring. I’m no artist, but I’ve been known to doodle. Granted, all of my doodles end up looking like some version of myself, but that may be more of a reflection on my enormous ego than on my artistic ability. (Maybe not.) Penny was, and is, so active and outgoing. Sitting her down and drawing or writing was more of a chore than it was fun, for both of us. I was so shortsighted. Obviously I’d rather play with my daughter than do something neither of us liked, but it finally caught up with me…in her terrible, terrible artwork. I screwed up!
Of course, I’m an idiot. (I make no bones about this fact…it’s in my friggin’ URL, for crying out loud!) Penny’s artistry, like everything else at this pre-school age, is a stage of development that takes more time in some kids than others. No one is a born artist, like no one is born potty-trained. These things take time! She was just a little slower with her fine motor skills than most of her classmates. She had a really hard time writing her letters, even though she recognized them. And, as I may have mentioned, she couldn’t draw worth a damn.
But, as we’ve practiced her letters at home and she continues the lessons at school, a nice little bonus is that her art has dramatically improved. She’s no longer just drawing rainbows and, when she draws people, they look like people! This happened literally like a week ago, but the change has been dramatic. Penny’s classmates’ drawings have also improved over the school year. Some of them are truly remarkable! But none of them so adorably depict the people I love most.
We still have limited space on the fridge, but more of her pictures are being saved than are being tossed.
Don’t judge me…we can’t keep them all!
—Read more from Dave Lesser at www.amateuridiotprofessionaldad.com