Column - It's not about the paintingWhen my children were little I spent hours decorating their rooms to perfection, keeping each element a secret until I could “unveil” the finished product to each happy little face.
By: Amy Chaffins, Alexandria Echo Press
When my children were little I spent hours decorating their rooms to perfection, keeping each element a secret until I could “unveil” the finished product to each happy little face.
Today, with all of them much older, I realize the process is as much a prize as the final product. So when the kids asked if they could “help” with a recent painting project in little brother’s room, I encouraged them to each go put on something they hate and join in the project.
We needed to paint the wall a sky-water blue, as this backdrop was our first step in creating a prehistoric mural.
Lesson #1: Paint stains. Don’t wear your favorite shirt or mom will never again let you wear it to school.
The greatest thing about three children is the way they continually change roles, surprising me each time I think I know what to expect. It was a night filled with all sorts of lessons, not only for the kids, but for mom, too.
Lesson #2: When your children surprise you, avoid taking that deep breath of initial concern. They will hear it and it could interrupt greatness.
I had no concerns about letting my follow-the-rules, color-between-the-lines child have full access to all of the painting tools. He would ask questions, he would be careful, he would do a nice job.
Instead, he was transformed into Vincent van Gogh the minute his still little hand touched the paintbrush. To see my meticulous guy painting with such wild abandon filled me with wonder as I watched out of the corner of my eye from my perch on the ladder. He quickly threw a thick layer of color on the wall and declared he was finished. Amazing.
Lesson #3: The youngest child begs for independence, yet he wants to be supervised.
I admit I had some initial concerns about handing Mr. Free-Spirit – my youngest child, age 5 – a roller saturated in blue paint. I pictured great globs of gooey paint dripping everywhere… Instead, he stared at the blank canvas that stood before him.
Mama, aren’t you going to watch me?
I can see you from up here.
But Mama, maybe I should have a brush.
I think you can handle the roller.
But Mama, there aren’t any lines.
While I had let go of the rules, my little – I mean big – boy wasn’t quite ready for the freedom offered by a wall and a roller filled with paint.
Realizing his struggle, I asked if he’d like me to tape the corner and the trim board.
That was all it took.
He carefully rollered for several minutes, reporting each drop that landed either on his clothing or the drop cloth – curiously surprised by my encouraging response of “That’s OK, keep painting.”
Soon, he tired of the process, requesting a more creative outlet offered by a brush.
He left the room, in search of a “brush that fit his hand.”
Lesson #4: A child who likes to make rules, likes to have rules. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Like a modern-day Lavinia Fontana, my daughter thoroughly researched the project before taking to the canvas before her. With the end in mind, she carefully evened out the work already completed by her brothers, continuously checking to make sure it was OK.
How I ever brought a perfectionist into this world is beyond me, yet I raised her, and I need to offer her opportunity to succeed. Barely taking any paint, she worked contentedly, smoothing the surface, leaving not even a trace of the former color showing through. She offered some words of advice and with permission, her work was done.
I wasn’t alone long – little brother finally found what he needed, a little watercolor paint brush.
Lesson #5: Creativity begins with the tools. I don’t know his idea, so I am not the expert on what tools he needs.
Since he’d been so careful with the roller, I returned to my cutting around the ceiling, leaving my little artist to his work.
Sure enough, Michaelangelo had emerged and his canvas was now the blue painter’s tape that was supposed to be protecting the adjacent sand-colored wall.
A very long conversation that included him pulling a dinosaur encyclopedia off his bookshelf finally showed me he was painting hieroglyphics.
Lesson #6: If you tell a 5-year-old that it’s OK to have an ash tree in a prehistoric dinosaur room, don’t be surprised when he decides that the dinosaurs lived in Egypt too and since they couldn’t read, they would like to look at the pictures.
“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.