Okay, my friends, we’ve had a week of illness here but Daphne’s much better now and Maia’s fever has finally gone down for the most part. I have a few minutes to write and join the conversation that Kristin started with her e-mail and that many of you contributed to when I posted her letter here.
I’d like to say that my life is perfect, that I really have it all together (ha!), that our house is always spic and span and worthy of a magazine photo shoot, and that all our art projects go smoothly and just as I had envisioned. But you and I both know that is not true. I am far from perfect, the dishes pile up in the sink and on the counter, I like to bake scones and anything involving chocolate much more than I like to cook daily nutritious meals.
And messes? We’ve got those. I don’t suppose I’ve told you that I’ve never successfully taught Maia to clean up after herself when she paints and creates? The kid is almost 6. Preschool teachers have their students cleaning up at age 3. What’s my problem?
But I don’t want to turn this into a big confessional. I could write long and hard about my failures and shortcomings as a human being and parent, but do you really want to hear it?
You know I’m as human as the next person. Right?! Because I am. This isn’t about that, though, is it? This is about how I choose to portray our life and our art on my blog. The Artful Parent is an edited version of my life. Not that it’s not true. Just that I’ve put on my fresh t-shirt (you know, the one without the spit up and sticky finger marks), combed my hair, and tidied up the house a bit for visitors. For you. Because, like many of us, I was taught to put my best foot forward. Because I really want you to like me (maybe I’m a tad insecure). And because I don’t want to see those messes myself (if I pretend they’re not there, maybe they’ll go away).
As for art, we definitely have our share of “flops.” They usually happen when I have something specific in mind and Maia, being an independent thinker, has something else in mind, is not in the mood, or perhaps I’ve set up a project that she is not developmentally ready for. I like to think of these as learning experiences rather than flops, although I don’t always see them as such at the time. And more often than anything, they are reminders to me to return to the process and the potential of the material and where my kids are right then. It’s usually followed by some space on my part as I let my kids engage in more child-led art rather than to try to be the "teacher" with all the answers. I might set out a couple of art materials to explore as they see fit rather than to direct a big multi-step project.
We do a lot of art in our house. I can’t blog about it all. And so I often choose to share the projects that are the most successful, the most beautiful, the most fun, and the ones that provide the best learning experiences.
I share the projects that I think your children might enjoy doing. I get super excited about the idea of families doing art together. This keeps me going. I get a kick out of the idea that I might share about an art activity we did on my blog and that you might be inspired to do it with your kids. So I try to write about the good ones. That’s not to say that I never write about when things don’t go as I had expected or as I thought they should. I do sometimes. And when I do I learn so much from you – from this wonderful community of parents and teachers. Perhaps I could more often. But my free time to write seems so limited right now (I’m writing this in the grocery store parking lot. By hand, because I don’t have a laptop. Much of my book was written the same way.) that I’d really rather focus on the successes than the flops.
So yes, I have messes and flops. I have times when I don’t clean up after an art project for days because I just can’t face it. I have days when I cry at the littlest things. Days when I think, “who am I to think I can write a book?!” And a book for parents, no less.
I feel good about my ability to do lots of things. I can cook lasagna and sew clothes for my family. I’m a hard worker and was always good at my various jobs. I was an A student throughout school.
None of this prepared me for parenting.
Nothing is as humbling as raising a child. When Maia was born, I couldn’t believe they were going to let me take her home from the birth center. Couldn't they tell I didn't know a thing? Things haven’t changed a whole lot. I’m a little more confident about my ability to wing it, but I sure don’t know everything there is to know about parenting. I’d like to say that I’m at least one step ahead of my children as a parent, but really, I’m more often two steps behind. I continue to learn so much on this parenting journey and it continues to be so incredibly humbling.
And through the mess and craziness (and sometimes the tears) of our days, it helps me to have a place where I can focus on the joy and the creativity and the art that we try to fill our lives with. My blog gives me a place where I can focus on what I love, perhaps on what I’m good at, and what I want to see more of in the world.
I can try to be more conscious of how I portray our life and art on the blog, try to be more real, but at the same time, I can't promise that I’ll change it a whole lot.
Kristin, thank you so much for your heartfelt letter and for voicing what many others were perhaps thinking as well. Everyone else, thank you for your comments and for adding to the discussion. It’s been so interesting to hear the different viewpoints.