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?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Great Outdoors

For someone who has been known as a “houseplant” throughout her life, I sure have a lot of memories of the outdoors from my childhood: playing under the azalea bushes with my sister, raking leaves until I had blisters on my hand (okay, not such a great memory), exploring the woods behind my friend’s house down the street, riding my bike around Whitehall, sitting up in the cob-webby tree house in the backyard, swimming for hours on end in Lake Murray.

Somewhere around age 12, though, I think I stopped going outside!

As an adult, I have wanted to spend more time outdoors, but I have found myself asking, “What will I DO out there?” Beyond sitting on the patio, reading a magazine, and drinking a glass of wine, I’ve been kind of lacking in ideas.

And now I have my daughter Katy and, at 18 months of age, she adores being outside. She walks up to me at least twice a day, saying, “Shoes.” If she is holding her shoes, this translates to, “Please put these on and take me outside!” If she is not holding her shoes, this translates to, “Please find my shoes, put them on me, and take me outside!” Though I confess that one afternoon I actually put on a Baby Einstein video instead, generally I have acted upon her request.

At first, I figured she would just occupy herself out there. After all, it’s a “whole new world”, right?, and she should be amazed by each blade of grass. But it turns out, there is a little parent involvement required in the whole deal. So we collect leaves and examine rocks and toss balls and blow bubbles and flap our wings and discuss tree bark and drive toys trucks on the patio. When Daddy is home it’s even more fun, because she can watch him clean patio furniture, hose pollen off the siding, and shovel dirt from the sidewalk. Little sister Bayla already enjoys feeling the evening breeze from her bouncy seat and drinking a bottle as Mommy sits in a deck chair by the bird feeder.

Who knew we would ever be such an “outdoor family”? Who knew that our yard, without that magazine and glass of wine, would be so much fun? My kids may still choose to be “houseplants”, but at least I will know that it didn’t happen because I never gave them opportunities to be outside.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Another shot at blogging

I tried blogging for a couple of weeks over a year ago, but stopped because I didn’t really have time to keep it up. So why, now that I have TWO children to take care of, do I imagine that I have time to keep it up now? Well, I don’t know for sure that I can, but I have the urge to try. And I learned a few lessons in the interim that may help me sustain the practice. First, I learned that it is simply NOT necessary to write an entry every day. (Impossible, anyway!) Second, I learned that everyone else is not, in fact, writing masterpieces for me to compete with. (And that this is not a competition anyway!) Third, I learned that I have to maintain the blog for myself, not with any big expectation that I will draw a wide audience. (If that were to be my expectation, then I would quickly become sorely disappointed!) So, in short, I’m BA-AAA-AACK!