“I love it when a plan comes together.” (That’s an A-Team reference.) I recently had the idea to create homemade cards for my kids for their upcoming birthday. Then I had the idea to write a blog about it. Which forced me to actually do it, rather than relegate it to the heap of 1 million and 1 ideas I never followed through on.
A little background.
The last time I took an art class was in 7th grade. I don’t draw or paint or sculpt. My creative inclinations have always bent toward the literary and performing arts. This wasn’t something I gave any thought to. It was settled, fixed. “Not an artist” (of the visual variety) was as much a description of me as “brown hair.” Ha! Well my hair is grayer by the minute, so I guess it’s time to rethink some other fixed ideas I have about myself.
Last spring, in the early days of lockdown, my children watched author Mo Willems’ daily “Lunch Doodles” live stream, with an almost religious fervor. This wild-haired creator of some of our favorite books taught them how to draw Elephant, Piggie and the infamous Pigeon. He showed them the drawers of his art studio and taught them to play a DIY board game called “Superbounce.” He emphasized the beauty of the doodle. At the end of a couple weeks he had to go back to his other work. We had hoped he’d do the show forever.
A few months later I saw an interview with Mo (as I take the liberty of calling him) in the New York Times and read it immediately. He had some truth bombs for parents, including lamenting that most kids stop drawing because their parents don’t draw. I’m going to quote the whole section, because it’s that good:
If you want your kid to be a better human, the way to do it is to be a better human. There’s a time in every kid’s life when they’re still drawing every day and playing basketball every day. Then there’s a day when they stop drawing and keep playing basketball. They keep playing basketball because their parents do, and their parents don’t draw. At some point they’re like, ‘‘That can’t be cool because my parents don’t do it.’’ You don’t think you’re cool, but if your kid says, ‘‘Dad, will you play with me?’’ and you say, ‘‘Not now, I’m drawing,’’ that kid is going to start drawing because that’s cool to them.
Challenge accepted. One night, in the crazy before-bed time, I got out my journal and started doodling. My kids were on me faster than you can say “Mo Willems” and we had some lovely evenings drawing together. We seem to have gotten away from this (I think I’ll bring it back). But the message was sent. My kids now believe that I love to doodle. For my birthday a few weeks back they made me a huge pile of cards. One of them was a fat envelope from Melia containing a stack of small green papers and a tiny box of crayons. “For doodling, because I know you love it.”
And here’s the kicker, which you probably saw before I did: I do love doodling! I’m not suggesting I have any hidden talents and am turning my basement into an art studio. That is so beside the point. Expressing ourselves through words or images or movement is not about “talent” or being “good enough” to be a professional, it’s about … EXPRESSING OURSELVES. It’s about MEETING OURSELVES and BEING OURSELVES and, for goodness sake, HAVING FUN!
Making the kids’ cards was very fun. I’m so glad I even had the idea to do it, which was huge. And I'm glad I gave myself permission to take the time to do it. My kids, like most kids, I expect, love art and I want to support that. I want to support you in self-permission too. What have you always wanted to do or never thought to do till just now that I could give you a little nudge toward?