Friday, May 29, 2009

Process v. Product

A familiar old saying insists that it is the journey, and not the destination, that counts the most, and so many books and articles I read talk about valuing the process over the product. When it comes down to it, though, I’m a “product girl.”

When I was a kid, I got a book on how to draw cartoons; instead of going through the steps to learn how, I just traced the pictures at the end of the chapters! When I’m crafting, I have to remind myself to create something that is meaningful to me, rather than just cranking out something I can submit for Somerset Studio’s latest theme.

I find that this attitude is creeping into my childrearing practices!

When I first started giving crayons and paper to Katy, I was champing at the bit to get an attractive scribble that I could hang on the fridge (and one for the baby book and a few more for the grandparents). I would say enthusiastically, “Here, scribble on the paper!” while she was busy inspecting the crayons, clapping them together like little cymbals, and holding them up to her lips to see if I would stop her.

I would draw lines and circles on a piece of paper to encourage her to draw on her own, but she just wanted to scribble on the same page I had used; I was manic about making sure every mark on the page had been made by her.

Sometimes she would scribble strong, bold lines on her high chair tray, then barely touch down when I shoved a piece of paper under her moving crayon. Other times, I would ask her, “Don’t you want to draw a line? Don’t you want to try a circle?” “No!” she told me, as she tucked the crayons away by her side in the high chair, hoarding them to pull out triumphantly later.

People may think I read too many books about kids’ development, but I think it’s a good thing I do! A book I read recently pointed out to me that I should be focusing on the experience of playing with the crayons, and not worrying about the end result. I realized, “Who would want to color with me around anyway?” No wonder Katy played with her crayons more than she made lines on the page; she probably figured I would critique her ability to confront form, space, and gesture in her work! So much for toddler playtime.

Thankfully, I am a teachable spirit. While I WAS secretly pleased to have an attractively colorful scribble to hang on the fridge, I am now happy to let Katy examine the crayons, hide the crayons, and take the crayons in and out of the box for twenty minutes at a time. (She’s still not allowed to eat them!) If she manages to actually color a bit, that’s fine too. But, after all, isn’t it about giving her a chance to love the process?


daisy said...

Don't you just love shared learning experiences -- with an 18 month old!! A great post and good reading for every young mother trying her best to raise a bright and engaged child.

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