Fairly early on in my art class career I discovered that I can't draw. Or paint. Or "work clay." My fine art skills are lacking, to say the least. Discouraged that some of the other girls had a natural knack for craypas, I remember sharing my disappointment with my Dad. We evaluated an art class "masterpiece" I'd brought home that was not masterful at all. After a minute he said, "Yeah. I'm not good at art either. I'm a really good doctor though."
Tonight, as I sweat my way through the aisles of the K-2 art show at my son's school, I was reminded of that moment when my Dad affirmed for me that not only was I right, I did suck at art, but that he did too. And more importantly, that people who suck at art, can be really good at other things.
If tonight's art show was a pop song, the chorus would go "Great Job, Honey! That's so awesome! You're an amazing artist!" (I have the tune in my head). The choreography would be excessive hugging moves interspersed with high fives. And I must admit, I would be singing back up and playing the tambourine.
Something must have happened between the time when parents and children admitted strengths and weaknesses freely, and now. There was not a parent on the premises tonight who looked at a watercolor of an alien and said "That's ok, Kiddo. You're great at math."
I fear that the pressure for our children to be good at everything diminishes their ability to uncover that they're good at something. If my dad had looked at the "Queen's Head With Crown" I made out of clay in 4th grade and had not said, "It looks like Mel Brooks in drag," perhaps I wouldn't have asked who Mel Brooks was. Perhaps I never would have discovered the 2000 Year Old Man and thought to myself - I want to be like that one day. Perhaps I would still be sitting hopeless with a box of sharpened colored pencils and a pout.
My father's ability to casually allow me to relax about my shortcomings, gave me the space to seek out my passion. But I can bet, you'd be hard pressed to find a parent from tonight's event doing anything other than encouraging their budding artist. Even if their child is a budding anthropologist.
"I'm so proud of you," I heard myself saying as we left the school.
"Why?" my son asked.
"I've never gone to my kid's art show," I replied, "that was cool!"
"Yeah, I guess," he said. "I don't think mine was that good."
"Well..." Mel Brooks in drag flashed before my eyes. .. "I had fun anyway. Now, tell me about science class today."
His face lit up as he relayed every last detail of their lesson on habitats.
The "Great Job, Honey" pop song comes easily to me. It feels so natural, so encouraging, positive, nurturing. But, I think I'm taking it off my shuffle list. When my kids make a sculpture of Mel Brooks in Drag and call it "Queen With Crown," I'll need a different chorus. One with slightly alternate lyrics like, "Sucking at Something Means You Might Be Awesome at Something Else." (I have the tune in my head).