Olivia created this canvas with me on Saturday. I was working on my Spill It! assignment for Carmen’s class, and Livvie decided she wanted to try along with me. (Sarah chose to paint an “Open” and “Closed” sign for their room instead.) She was following along with me for the most part when I looked over at her and realized she was crying. Oh goodness. I immediately went over to her with my paint covered hands, tried to give her a hug without getting paint all over her, and asked her what was wrong.
“I keep messing it all up, Mama!” Livvie is a bit of a perfectionist. The one thing she was doing differently than me was that she was using a paintbrush, not her fingers, because she didn’t want to get paint all over her fingers (which surprised me because the child has no issue getting completely covered with mud in the back yard). But I guess—maybe because of her art resource period at school?—she thought that painting with a paint brush was the “correct” way to paint. I quickly took her over to my laptop and showed her some of the canvases our class had posted in our ning group…to show her that, like mine, none of them were “perfect.” (No offense to my Spill It! friends!) After that, I asked her to consider putting her paintbrush down, and I helped her smush some paint around with her fingers. Then I showed her how we could take the opposite end of her paintbrush and draw smiley faces in the wet paint. That got her. :-) From there, she tried a little of the bubble wrap method and then dipped the heart shaped cookie cutter I had given her into her pink paint and added the heart you see in the middle. After the addition of the stickers, she declared it done with a quiet smile on her face, remnants of tears still on her cheeks.
I’ve been thinking about that all week, particularly in regards to the expectations we put upon our children and our selves. I didn’t have any expectations for Livvie’s painting; I just wanted her to have fun. But because of her own expectations, she wasn’t having any fun at all at first. She’s been struggling a little at school, and we’ve had to meet with her teacher. Boy, did that break my heart. I was heartbroken for her because she was struggling, and I know that she notices that Sarah hardly ever struggles with her schoolwork, and I was heartbroken for me because she wasn’t meeting the “standards.” Terrible of me, huh. What standards? My standards? No, I guess they weren’t my standards, they were the school’s standards, but I realized my standards when it comes to academics are probably pretty high too. She's in first grade, for Pete's sake! I have to admit, I never struggled in school. Not even through grad school. School just always came easy to me. But I see that it doesn’t come easy to Livvie just yet. She’ll get there; we’re committed to helping her at her pace, in whatever way she needs, providing mountains of encouragement and positive reinforcement along the way. We’re spending more one-on-one time with the two of them while they are doing their homework so Livvie doesn’t have that in-your-face opportunity to compare herself with her sister.
Back to my expectations of myself… I guess because I was always good in school, I expected that I’d be able to help my girls be good in school. I’m finding that that’s going to be a big learning process for me. And then I think about my expectations in regards to all this art stuff. I’ve always played with art. But when I started playing with mixed media, I realized I was definitely going to have to lower my expectations for myself. The first mixed media piece I created with Wyanne taught me a big lesson. Like Livvie, I too, was a perfectionist! Wy sweetly told me that I was just going to have to let that “crap” go, just play, and not worry so much about the end result. Maybe that’s a really good life lesson too. Let the crap go…just play…and maybe everything will fall into place as it’s meant to be. That’s definitely a good lesson for me right now.