Tag: growingup

Flashback Friday: Super Strong

This story was originally posted on October 28, 2017. I think problems seem smaller when I can find a way to help someone.

“I can be anything I want to be, right?” Alex asked one night at dinner.

“Of course you can,” Dad said. He paused. “But you probably shouldn’t choose to be a veterinarian. Or a doctor. That might not go well.”

Alex frowned. He clutched his fork a little too tight. It broke in half and the metal pieces landed on his plate and cracked it. Alex burst into tears.

“It’s all right, honey,” Mom said. “There are still lots of things you can do.”

“Like what?” Alex asked. He sniffled and blew his nose on his thick canvas napkin. It tore down the center.

Mom handed him a new fork. “Well, um, you could be a newscaster,” she said. “Or a writer.”

“That’s right,” Dad said. “They have those programs now where you can dictate everything and you don’t have to type or hold a pencil.”

Alex frowned. “I just want to be like all the normal kids. You know, do the craft projects for the holidays. Play sports after school.   Write down my own answers on assignments.”

Dad sighed. “Life isn’t fair sometimes, huh?”

Alex nodded. “Yeah.”

“You’re not the only kid at school who can’t do all the normal things though, right?” Mom asked.

“One kid has to keep his eyes closed all the time, because he has laser eyes. And this one girl can’t talk at all because her voice shatters glass,” Alex said.

Mom smoothed Alex’s hair. “You see? It’s not just you.”

“It’s still not fair.” Alex picked up his new fork and speared some lettuce. The tines curled under.

“Maybe you can find a way to use your talents to help other people,” Dad said.

“Like what?” Alex asked. He ate the lettuce and bent the fork’s tines back into place.

“Well, you could read to that boy with the laser eyes,” Dad said.

Alex frowned. “But I’m not supposed to touch the books. The pages keep ripping when I turn them.” He speared another bite of lettuce and the tines curled under again.

“But he can pick up the books, right?” Mom asked.

Alex nodded. “There’s nothing wrong with his hands.”

“Then maybe you can help each other,” Mom said.   “I’ll bet there are a lot of stories you both want to hear.”

“You’ll find more work-arounds for your problems if you can work with other people,” Dad said.

“It would be nice to help people,” Alex said. “Do you really think I can?” He straightened the fork’s tines again.

“You’re the strongest person I know,” Dad said.   “I’ll bet there are lots of ways you can help people. All you need to do is look around and notice.”

“But what if I see a problem, and I can’t help?” Alex asked.

“Then you could try to find someone who can help,” Dad said.

“Okay,” Alex said.

“So, what do you want to be when you grow up?” Mom asked.

“A space pirate,” Alex said. “Do you think I can?”

“Maybe,” Dad said. “If you find the right crew.”

“You might need to invent a good spaceship first,” Mom said.

“I could do that,” Alex said. “At least I think I can.”

“Well, then you know where to start,” Dad said.   “Now who’s ready for lasagna?”

“Me!” Alex said. “Can I help?”

“Sure,” Dad said. “You can help me check to make sure it’s done. What do you think? Does it look good?”

“I think it looks great,” Alex said.

“Then it’s ready. Thanks for your help,” Dad said. Alex grinned.

Anything You Want to Be

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Leslie looked up from her coloring book in shock. “I can do that? Can I be more than one thing?”

Grandma smiled. “Of course dear. You can be anything you want to be.”

Wow. Leslie felt overwhelmed with the possibilities. She’d always wanted to fly, so part of the time she’d have to spend as a bird. But which one? Owls could stay up all night, but swans were so pretty, and hummingbirds could fly so fast.

Breathing underwater would be neat. She could explore the bottom of the ocean if she was a shark or a dolphin. If she was an octopus, she’d have arms. Lots of arms. Maybe she could gather up treasure from a sunken ship and buy her own house. She’d buy the yellow house next door, so she wouldn’t have to walk too far to go to bed after Mom made dinner.

Cheetahs could run fast. She’d win all the races if she was a cheetah. Being an elephant would be handy in a water fight. Penguins were always dressed up and didn’t have to wear anything scratchy.

Could she be more than one thing at a time? How often could she change? Did everyone else change into what they wanted when they grew up? Why didn’t they tell her sooner?

“So, what would you like to be?” Grandma asked again. “Have you thought of something?”

Leslie nodded. “A bird so I can fly and an octopus. I’m not sure what else. How many can I be?”

“A bird and an octopus?” Grandma laughed. “I’m afraid that you can’t be either one.”

“So what are my choices?” Leslie asked. “Are unicorns on the list? I think they can do magic, and that would be pretty neat.”

Grandma shook her head. “No animals. You’ll have to stay a person like the rest of us. I was asking what job you want to do when you grow up.”

Leslie stood up and put her hands on her hips. “Grandma, you asked me what I wanted to be, not what I wanted to do. It’s not the same thing.”

“You’re right. I’m sorry. I should have spoken more clearly.” Grandma patted the empty space on the couch next to her. “Will you come sit by me and tell me what job you’d like to do when you grow up?”

Leslie climbed up on the couch and snuggled next to Grandma. She thought for a moment. “Maybe I could be a fairy, because they have magic and can fly. Or I could be a princess. I like dressing up and tea parties. Being a superhero would be nice. They have magic powers, too. But they can only do some magic things, like flying and seeing through walls. Fairies can do lots of magic things and can dress up in twirly dresses too, so I think being a fairy would be best.”

“You have to be born a fairy or a princess or a superhero. Just like you have to be born a fish to be a fish, or a bird to be a bird.” Grandma smoothed Leslie’s hair and smiled. “Isn’t there something you’ve always wanted to do?”

“I wanted to eat cake for breakfast this morning.” Leslie thought for a moment. “And I want to do magic and fly.”

“What would you do with magic?” Grandma asked.

“I would help people. And I would magic cake on everyone’s plate, even at breakfast. If someone was sick, I would magic them better. And if I wanted my dress to be a different color, I would change it. I could change it to rainbow colors if I wanted. And if someone wanted to be a unicorn, I would change them into a unicorn, but only for a day, because unicorns don’t have hands, so it’s hard for them to color in their coloring books.” Leslie remembered that she hadn’t finished coloring and slipped off the couch and started coloring again.

“If you want to help sick people, you could be a doctor or a nurse,” Grandma said.

“Maybe.” Leslie kept coloring.

“If you like to color, maybe you could be an artist.”

“Maybe.” Leslie didn’t look up.

“If you like pretty dresses, maybe you could be a seamstress or a fashion designer.”

“Maybe.” Leslie finished coloring and turned the page. It was a picture of a penguin, but her black crayon was lost. She could color it a different color, but she didn’t want to. Leslie closed the book.

“So what do you want to do when you grow up?”

“I think that when I grow up, I will be Leslie. I’ll figure the rest out later,” Leslie said. She put the lid on the crayons and stood up.

“I think that’s a great plan,” Grandma said. “After you put away your crayons, would you like to have a tea party?”

“Of course I would. All little girls named Leslie who live in this house love to have tea parties. Especially if there’s cake.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Grandma said.

There was cake at the tea party.

Art Projects with Children

When you have small children at home and you are trying to practice your art, they will most likely want to practice with you. Unfortunately, small children have a way of breaking your focus and concentration and making terrible messes. So, it’s hard to practice art with them and really get much done at the same time.

So, how do you add children to your art practice? In some ways, this depends on the needs of the child. Small children require more attention, but they get bored with the project much more quickly. Older children might need a prompt and a little bit of instruction, but then you can both work side-by-side with few interruptions.

Some of the art my daughters have created when we paint and draw together

When children are small, it might be a good idea to have some inexpensive art materials on hand so they don’t destroy yours. It takes a while of reminding kids not to smash their brushes into the page before they remember. They also use a lot more paint than they need on their paintings. Especially if you happen to have their favorite color.

Cardboard boxes make nice art desks. A paper plate can be a palette. I dispense the paint so that they don’t use the whole tube. They paint happily for a few minutes. If they’re painting, I usually pause my project and paint with them. When the paint on the plate is gone, we’re done. It goes quickly.

With my older child who loves art, she likes a prompt of what she should draw. She also likes to look over my shoulder and ask questions about what I’m doing and why and how. If I’m sketching something, she may pull out her sketchbook and sketch the same thing and compare pictures.

The young artists in our home

After the painting or sketching or prompt following, or if they’ve completed a project on their own or at school, they all want to know the same thing. They show me their picture and ask, “What do you think?”

What they really want to know is, “Is this good? Am I an artist? Am I getting any better?”

I look at my own pictures and wonder the same thing.

I tell them, “That’s really good. You are a wonderful artist. I can tell you’re getting better.” Because it’s true. I think it’s true for me, too. I hope so.

I also find something they did well and point it out. They are happy and I’m happy. Sometimes they give me the picture and I hang it up on the fridge. Sometimes I put it away with the schoolwork I’ve saved. Sometimes they keep it or give it to a friend or a teacher.

There are times when they ask and I’m in the middle of a project and I say we’ll paint or sketch later. And sometimes it doesn’t happen later because something else comes up. It’s hard to change focus and pause sometimes. That’s okay, I think, as long as there are the other times where we do spend time together.

I’ve been nurtured and encouraged as an artist, and it’s good to pass that on to other artists. Who better than my children? The beginning of learning anything can be messy, but it can be fun too. As long as I make sure I have time where I can focus without being interrupted, it’s good to be able to paint and draw with my children, too.

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