Tuesday, November 30, 2010


The other day my daughter asked if she could paint with her new birthday water color set. I set them up for her and she started painting. Unfortunately, the paint set was very cheap and she became immediately frustrated. I tried to explain that it was the tiny brush and weak paints, but her brother was across from her successfully painting a picture with them, so my words were useless. She quietly set down her paint brush and threw herself onto the couch, sobbing. I sat down beside her, pulled her onto my lap, and wrapped her in my arms. I tried to calm her, but she could not stop sobbing. After a few minutes she suddenly burst out: "I thought art was my talent, but now I know it's not! I'm doomed! What am I going to do?!"

I was speechless.

I couldn't believe that a six-year old could have such an intense degree of disappointment when unable to produce desired results. I couldn't believe that she had, up to this point, defined herself as a talented artist and was now having an identity crisis.

I tried to explain that it is okay if we are not very good at something - or the best. I tried to explain that she can paint because she enjoys it, not because she is an expert at it. I then distracted her with something else because I couldn't convince her that she was still a great artist. (Since then she has resumed painting - but exclusively with water colors squeezed from my expensive little tubes.)

Yesterday, I added some finishing touches to a painting I have been working on. I wasn't completely focused on it; I messed it up and was extremely disappointed. I silently told myself that I should not be wasting my time painting. Then, I remembered the conversation I had with my daughter. I swallowed and reminded myself that I can paint because I enjoy it, not because my results are breathtaking.

But, seriously, art is exhausting. If it weren't so inwardly rewarding I would have thrown my arms up long ago. I hope that my daughter will recognize this early on and continue to stick with it - because I honestly think that she is good at it.

And, let's face it, we need to fill our lives with things that uplift us, challenge us, and allow us to develop ourselves - even if they are painful and frustrating at times.


Jamie Lamb said...

I'm so glad to hear someone else say that art is exhausting! (I was an art major. Fun, but a lot of work!)

I guess people think that since it's relaxing to view art, it must have been relaxing to produce the art. Creativity is work, but very fun and rewarding.

I remember doing the exact same thing when I was about 6. I was trying to draw a picture for my aunt, and when it didn't look right, I sobbed and sobbed in my room. I was sure that my special little talent had vanished. :( so sad.

I should really make more time for art now. SIGH. I miss it!

Barb's blessings said...

It's also hard to be the younger sibling. No matter how hard you try to help each child shine, they always compare their weaknesses to their siblings strengths -- a pattern we adults continue throughout our life, I'm afraid.

Rachel overheard us tell someone once that she wasn't as brilliant as Roger (most of us aren't) and that comment haunted her for most of her childhood. I would have given my right arm to retract it. She is over it now and recognizes her intellectual gifts are just different than his. She is wise, he is just intellectually gifted but not very wise.

You are such a great mom!

Love ya,