Saturday, August 20, 2011

Creative Neuroses

I try very hard not to pass my various neuroses along to my children, who are currently 2- and 3-years old.  Sadly, I fail.  Often.

And sadder still, my failings often revolve around arts and crafts time.  Case in point:  Our first foray into painting this morning.
I have collected all kinds of acrylic and poster paints, with the intention of introducing my girls to the fun and wonder of painting.  But then I continually put off the Big Day because of my fear of absolute mayhem and messiness.
Yesterday I finally let on that we would paint today.  At 7:30 this morning, the girls began to pester me to paint.  I planned to do it SOMETIME today, and I saw no good reason to put it off, so I bit the bullet and pulled out dollar store paint pots, small paintbrushes, and fresh white paper. 

The girls were still in their pajamas, but I put their aprons on and set them up in their booster seats at the breakfast table, with the usual vinyl “crafting tablecloth” in place.  
My three-year-old took one look at the paint pots (all the colors of the rainbow, mind you!) and started complaining that there wasn’t enough paint.  It’s never a good sign when Art Time starts off with a lecture on gratitude and being happy with what you’ve got!  The whining continued when the dinky little paintbrush couldn’t stand up to her vigorous “paint scrubbing.”  Note to self, beware of inferior supplies sold at the dollar store.  “Going cheap” really doesn’t do anyone any favors!
Once the painting got underway, Neurotic Mommy entered the building.  On the one hand, I’m telling my older daughter, the “neat freak”:  “Paints are messy!  That’s part of the fun!”  On the other hand, I’m telling my younger daughter, the “messy one”:  “Try not to touch your face so much.  You’re getting paint everywhere.  No, no, don’t spill the cup of water.  Let me roll up your sleeves so you don’t get paint on your pajamas.”
My girls won’t ever need to take a Psych. class;  they have a real-life, honest-to-goodness example of split personality at their own art table!

When my older daughter finally got over her concerns that there wasn’t enough paint, and the paintbrush wasn’t getting clean enough in the water cup, and the paint was going where she wanted it to on the page, she set her paper aside, and started scooping globs of paint directly into her rinsing cup and swirling it around.
My first reaction—joykill that I seemed intent on being—was to say things like, “You’re supposed to put the paint on the paper.  If you’re going to just waste the paint by putting it directly in the water, we’re not going to be able to paint again.  You can’t waste paint like that.”

And do you know what she said?
“But I’m painting the water.”
And that totally stopped me in my tracks.  I thought it was a little bit of brilliance.  If we paint the paper, why on earth shouldn’t we paint the water, too?
She was looking intently to see how the paint reacted with the water, and how each additional glob of color changed the overall color of the water in the cup. 
Once again, I got so focused on getting that finished picture to hang on the fridge, that I almost missed the point, the true benefit of the painting experience from the point of view of a three-year-old little girl who is FINALLY given paints, a paintbrush, and a cup of water for her experiments.

So I let her be, with her glopped-up mess of paint pots and her ever more-dismally colored cup of rinse water.
Afterwards, the girls faced the barrage of Mommy Questions:  “Was that fun?  Did you like it?  Do you want to paint again sometime?”  More than anything, I know I was seeking reassurance that I didn’t totally ruin the experience for them!

My older daughter was reasonably satisfied with the experience (she’s going through a “practiced lack of enthusiasm phase” that could rival any pre-teen!), and my younger daughter, who cares very little for the arts and crafts projects I foist upon them, declared that she loves to paint!
I’m calling the experience a success all ‘round, creative neuroses be damned!


NLT said...

Painting the water?!?!?! That is precious!!!! You are a great mom, so cool to provide them with such a creative activity and watch it unfurl. Love, love this post. :)

lee said...

sounds like a fun time, oh how I remember those times,sounds like you held it together

VivJM said...

Oh, this made me laugh and then nearly cry! I could so relate!! It gets easier as they get older and can help with the clean up :-)

Anne said...

You come by your neuroses honestly...
I remember when you and your sister dyed Easter eggs and I felt honor bound to explain that if you dipped the egg in every color at once, it would be brown (instead of beautiful)
#1 maybe you LIKED brown and #2 you
were experimenting. My "suggestions" didn't seem to lessen your fun and I'm sure yours made not a dent in theirs. What dear little faces!!

Parabolic Muse said...

Oh my heaventy sakes! I can totally relate to your dilemma. I am so conflicted at times like these. I love having control, but I also love freedom. I'm sometimes afraid of giving other people freedom because then things will get out of control! It's so odd, to me.

Christina said...

What a brilliant post! Good job, Andria!! As long as the girls grasp the "clean up" concept, let them get as messy as they want! :) Painting outside of the box (no pun intended) should never be restricted... And the wisdom of parenting (I would imagine) is found in allowing that freedom. I can remember "restrictions" as I was growing up... I remember getting in trouble while I was in the process of breaking my crayons in half... I was sitting on the floor (I must have been maybe 4 or 5 years old? Maybe 6?) facing a mirror in the hallway with a pie tin full of crayons in front of me. I was facinated by the sound of the break, and thought I was brilliant to be making two crayons instead of one since I had to share with my sisters... such a simple thing, and what did it really matter if the crayons were broken? But my father was not impressed and only saw that I was destroying the crayons...(It is really amazing the things you remember from childhood!) The beauty in children is the constant reminder of what is truly important and what matters not... They so often are the teachers as much as the parents are! Well, at least for the parents/adults that are paying attention... :) The girls are so very lucky to have YOU!! (Give them hugs for me, and tell Katy her painted water was beautiful!! :)

Carin Winkelman said...

I laughed out loud with this one! Thanks for sharing!