They say “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
When it comes to art, beauty is very subjective. What is viewed as priceless to one can make another gaze with a tilted head muttering “I don’t get it.”
I recently used these words to describe a little bit about my son:
“When this joyous being came into my life, I was given the gift of a type of peace I did not know I could experience. He has always been happy, kind and giving of a sense of humor that makes me laugh, always. My son gave meaning to the word ‘advocate’ for I felt I was always sticking up for his curious, rambunctious ways. It was exhausting, but I never wanted him to feel his uniqueness was stifled in any way.”
When I wrote that, I had a specific instance that kept playing over and over in my head. It had to do with a time in our life eight years ago when my son started Kindergarten. A time where, as a parent, I had to make sure my son felt validated and that he embraced the knowledge that he was smart, funny and that his contributions mattered no matter what the teacher said to him. I was faced with trying to teach my 6-year-old that he was enough and did not have to try to please his teacher, something I knew he was so desperately trying to do.
It all boiled down to an art project done in class around the spring break time.
Arriving home that day in April, my son was oddly quiet. No chatter about his day. He gave me a half smile and went into the other room to play with his Power Rangers. I thought maybe he was tired, so I let him be as I pulled out the mass of papers haphazardly shoved into his backpack. After looking through letter people and various pictures, I noticed a crumpled ball of paper in the very bottom of the bag. As I transformed the ball back to a flat piece of paper, I asked my son why his artwork was squished.
“My teacher told me I did it all wrong and that it wasn’t as pretty as the others.” I listened as he continued. “She said to make our eggs pretty…to use all the pretty colors. So I did. And then she said that it did not look like an Easter egg, that it should be blue, green or purple, but I told her that when I dip my eggs in all the colors, this is what it looks like. Then she told me that it wasn’t like all the others.”
I knew what happened. He followed his teacher’s directions, literally. He used ALL the pretty colors, making his egg brown-ish in color. When he finished, he saw it as beautiful. What broke my heart for him was the fact she made him feel not good enough, so much so that he was ashamed of his artwork and hid it in the bottom of his bag.
I remember taking his little hands in mine and as we touched foreheads asked him if he liked his picture. He slowly nodded yes. I whispered that I liked that he used all the colors and that I thought it was pretty. I then asked if it would be okay if we hung it on the fridge. Again he nodded and we walked over and hung it with his Superman magnet. He smiled and hugged my leg, then ran off to resume his Ranger battle.
Kindergarten should be exciting and full of wonder, creating a base of empowerment to carry through the next 12 years of education. I felt horrible that this was not the experience my son was receiving at school and we worked so hard at home that year to make up for it. It is important to always advocate for your children and their feelings. When the world makes them feel less than, it is at this time they need us the most to let them know they are enough.
If allowed to be themselves, to share all their unique qualities, they will create for you a true masterpiece.
And isn’t that kind of art enough?