Art and About
Engaging with the creative force in everyday life

January 20th, 2008

Drawing Courage From Our Children

Posted by christina in Web Columns

My son came to the breakfast table with a pencil and paper and asked, “What’s your favorite drawing utensil, Mommy?” The question caught me off guard. It was an unusual topic to start the day’s communication. I also didn’t have an immediate answer. I only draw when I have to. Just about the moment I decided I to answer “pencil,” he jumped in and volunteered that his favorite drawing utensil was the pencil because he could erase stuff. I agreed that I would also pick the pencil for that reason.

If you have children, you may have been called upon to use your drawing skills in ways you haven’t attempted since you were a child. Of course, there are those of you who draw well and regularly, whether there are children or no children in your lives. Then there are the rest of us.

When my children were very young, I realized I had a lot of anxiety about drawing for them. I have always wished my brain and my hand had a little better relationship so that the pictures I see in my head come out the tips of my fingers through the pencil and onto the page. Intellectually, I understand how drawings are made of basic shapes put together. But even compiling shapes for me is a frustrating experience. If drawing were a foreign language, it would be like understanding vocabulary in my head but being unable to make it come out of my mouth.

I was comforted to learn that I wasn’t the only parent who was shy about drawing for her children. Being asked to draw a horse or an airplane was making parents sweat all around me. We shared insecurities about making unintentionally abstract art, which would cause our kids to furrow their brows and ask, “What is that, Mommy?”

One year, my sister-in-law gave my daughter the gift of a “paint date” for her birthday. My daughter was two and loved to paint, paint, paint. Auntie Erin came over and planned to spend the morning in painting nirvana. While the two were getting started at the easel, Erin confessed to me that she was worried about her own product. She envied my daughter’s uninhibited approach to paint, and wondered aloud why a two-year-old paints better than she does. I nodded in empathy.

I’ve been a mother for seven years now and I have collected many compliments on my drawings of horses and airplanes from my kids. They also like the way I paint. I’m starting to relax a little about drawing in front of them, and I am re-learning the basics of drawing as I talk them through making horses and airplanes themselves. I have been forced to draw more in the last seven years than I have since I was very young. I don’t remember being much of a doodler. Once words were in my grasp, I killed time by writing instead of drawing and my drawing development didn’t get very far. I am now making up for lost time.

Drawing happens to be my parental bugaboo. I know some parents feel self-conscious about their voices and are afraid to sing to their children. I know some feel funny about dancing in view of the children. To these people, I am the first one to encourage them to let loose in front of children. They are a very forgiving audience, and when they are young, their parents are godlike creatures whom they adore. Your kids don’t care if you sing off key or look like a dancing dork or are drawing-challenged. They love you because you’re you.

Maybe children are sent into our lives to help us un-inhibit ourselves. Maybe they are sent to free us from the creative chains of bondage we slap on ourselves. With children, we’ve all been given a creative second shot with a totally accepting and loving audience. Since this is the type of support we give them as they learn new skills, it’s a nice reciprocity when they provide us the same developmental encouragement.

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