All in Artful Kids

What we believe about a child, and the person who that child is becoming, is significant. As Charlotte Mason says, "A child is a person." Children are not just babies becoming people, they are already people. In this way, we hold and relate to them with honor and respect. On one hand, we don't need to idolize them in preciousness. Nor do we need to belittle them for their weakness.

This reality is a great equalizer, and it makes me want to consider that honor even in the hope that the simple songs they sing and memorize should also be great songs.

I’m dumbfounded. My preliterate preschooler is turning into a little journalist, and I have no idea why. When she sees me with scraps of paper, it is more often to make a grocery list than anything else, which she’s at least mildly aware of since I always start my list by asking, “Lily, what should we get from the grocery store?” To which she replies something like, “Cereal, strawberries, and chocolate.” I’d like to think that it’s the writer in me that has somehow projected the importance of literacy to my child and she’s absorbing my love of the written word, but I don’t think that’s it.
Just behind me, all of the sprouts for our garden lean towards the sunlight and serve as yet another reminder of new life. Surrounded by gifts of life, light, growth, beauty, feast, story, and love, I sit down. I pause. I wait and I color these tiny Lenten pictures. When I steal away for a few minutes to color, I feel myself wanting to savor the project, and I work with a purposeful slowness, hoping the exercise will be one that lasts much longer than I know it will.
I don't mean to satirize mom blogs. As an artist, I live to create beauty and to breathe it in, and I am often inspired by these creative mamas. Neither do I condemn the blogging mamas themselves. After all, I am one of them. I'm no celebrity, but I have definitely projected — through my blog and through my posts — a picture of a beautiful life. I am only suggesting that we think twice about the standard we create when we post only the good stuff.
You may have little boys in your life who love to sit and draw, paint and create, and I’ve known many of these delightful boys over the years. But I find great joy in the scrambling bursts of energy and emotion that wild boys bring to my life and to the art room. Finding an art project that engages the heart and mind of a child, and especially a little boy, is like glimpsing a perfect moment of how God intended for us to live.
His painting consisted of red and blue brushstrokes across the bottom of the paper, because that was as high as he could reach. I saved the painting in a plastic bin somewhere in his bedroom closet: not a particularly beautiful painting, definitely not an important subject, but it is significant. It marks a few moments in which my son wondered about paint.
For me, pressing my brush against a canvas shakes the snow globe of monotony. It’s how I process this season of life and refill my cup. More than that, it’s the way I etch toward beauty, contemplate truth, and lasso the wayward bits of myself so I have more to give to the people I love.
My son Adrian, our oldest of four children, is a talented singer-songwriter and musician. I say this with as much objectivity as I can muster, for it would be easier if he wasn’t so good. I carry with me all the broken promises, misplaced optimism, wishful thinking, and bull-headed stubbornness that thirty-odd years in the music business doles out. Without a doubt, I also had some signature moments of my life, but what weighs more: the successes or the struggles?
I’m six months pregnant with my first child and nesting like there’s no tomorrow. Nesting takes many forms for me: cleaning, painting, sorting, shredding, and acquiring. A substantial portion of the process involves acquiring books — books about pregnancy, nutrition, labor and birth, baby development, philosophies of child-raising, and how to love a child as part of our family, our church, our neighborhood, and the world.

Raising Artful Children: a Grandmother’s Perspective

In this grand vocation of teaching kids about the world, it’s important to give careful thought to the environments we create for them to grow up in — grandparents’ homes included. Our homes are not neutral places, but rather culture-shaping places. We’re helping to form ideas, attitudes, imagination, compassion, and skills. Our little people will one day be big people who take their places in the flow of history. In hundreds of vocational spheres — as mothers and fathers, artists and scientists, shopkeepers and CEOs — our children and grandchildren will grow up to be the culture-makers of their generation.

Every morning, I flip on the lights to my upstairs writing room, open the window blinds, and crank up some music on iTunes to rev up my brain for writing. I sing along to hymns, Radiohead, Johnny Cash, The Shins, Emmylou Harris, and all manner of songs, as if to prepare this space artistically for our children one day. I will gladly give up this room for a kid when the time comes, so it’s like I’m painting the walls in song in preparation, which of course includes silly jazz songs, too — like the Coal Train Railroad record.