There is no shortage of things to do for kids these days. If they are old enough, they are working on developing early onset Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from Tweeting or texting. They are streaming the latest episodes of ‘Hannah Montana’ or someone lighting their genitalia on fire on YouTube on their iPhones. As parents, we may have signed them up for the gaggle of sports (if we couldn’t be a star than our kids will be and we will be living every big hit or jump shot directly through them) available approximately 13 minutes after they have become potty trained. At home, their time is consumed by Wii, PS3, BluRays, and Netbooks.
In my house, the kids are bit too young for 4G connectivity speed and Tweeting about how hot they think Justin Beiber is. Instead we are overwhelmed with toys. For such diminutive people, my children have an uncanny ability to dispense clutter in my house like a crop duster spraying a corn field. In my house, it is not uncommon to trip over a Barbie Corvette or step on a Polly Pocket (step on it barefoot and it is a pain only to be rivaled by childbirth. I checked with my wife for a ruling and she told me I was an “idiot” and a “wimp”…her words). Trying to clean up after them is like trying to figure out what is going to happen on ‘Lost’. You still don’t know but yet you try every week to figure it out.
So what do kids do to spark original creativity? They are fluent in emoticons and know every cheat code to God of War 2 but when was the last time they pretended the sofa was a boat or decided to color trees blue?
For this reason, in my house, I am careful to maintain a time limit on the Wii (for them not for me…what’s the fun of being a parent if you don’t have double standards?). Though a powerful tool, television has a limit too. I want my kids to grow up pretending the stick in the backyard is a wand or a sword. I want them to play ‘House’ with the baby dolls their mother and I spent so much money on we took a rider on our home owner’s insurance out on them. I want them cooking the plastic croissant and fake French Fries in their “kitchen”. I want them to use their brain for something other than figuring out combo attacks on a controller or 140 character updates. I want them to use their creativity.
Thankfully, my girls often get a Jackson Pollack itch, and need to scratch it with some art. Their creativity cries out for a piece of paper, raw macaroni, or the wall. Sometimes I swear if they knew how to maneuver on scaffolding, they would want to paint the kitchen ceiling with their hands. Short of erecting that scaffolding, I am more than happy to oblige their urge to put ink, graphite, or paint to paper (and occasionally on the walls of the garage).
Set up time is somewhat involved. By involved I mean it can take as long as production on ‘Eyes Wide Shut’. Smocks, which look an awful lot like t-shirts that used to be in my drawer, are always slipped on. I lay out place mats and, depending on the medium we’re using, newspaper, on the kitchen island to serve as drop cloths. Some company still manufactures the same dried oval watercolors in the white trays I had as a kid because we have 7 sets of them and I comment about them every time we paint (the kids roll their eyes…I blame their mother for that). If we are using acrylic paints, I have to scavenge the Tupperware cabinet to get enough small containers to put a dollop of paint in to. Each girl gets their own water dish (it didn’t take long to figure out sharing water between a 7 and 4 year old was like dusting your 19th Century Curio with 40 grit sandpaper…not a good idea). I hand out the assorted sized paint brushes with bristles made from what can only be described as ballistics grade plastic. Within a nanosecond of the paper being meted out, paint starts to fly.
The water bowls are a muddy purple brown color before I can spin back around from grabbing some paper towels. It does not take long, whether it is paint, markers, or macaronis, for finished pieces to be handed my way. My kitchen counters, dining room table, and any other flat surfaced area of the house is layered with art waiting to dry (some spots of paint have been soaked with enough paint to paint over the side of my house with and will need a good 5 days to fully “cure”).
Before I am handed one of their original pieces, both girls make sure to admire their work by holding it out in front of them. They also make sure to explain to me where their inspiration came from and what it is I am looking at. Their pride shines. Their creativity fires on all cylinders.
Once the work is completed and had a chance to dry we are eager to find places to hang their masterpieces of finger paints.
Art galleries spend hundreds upon thousands of dollars to hang art from tortured artists, who are most likely long dead, in ornate frames and perfect lighting. The art gallery located at 6212 Pondview Drive
spends approximately $0.99 in Scotch tape and the softness of a GE 60watt light bulb to display works from elated artists whose only torture comes from not being able to have soda and Fruit by the Foot for dinner. Doors, cabinets, the television, tucked into the edges of the mirror frame, the coffee table; all surfaces considered available for art in our museum. After we get done properly displaying the fine pieces of art, the three of us take our stroll around to admire what was accomplished. Emma leans towards abstract. I sense early Dadaism Movement out of Hannah’s work.
I’m just happy they forgot about the Wii for a little bit. Glad they aren’t building a Webkins town on the computer. I’m willing to sacrifice some practice time with the soccer ball for this. I don’t even mind tripping over the ‘Handy Mandy’ tool set that is sitting in my living room. They have created a miniature Guggenheim on the first floor all from their own creativity.
There is no shortage of things to do for kids these days. It is a delicate balance between mindless video gaming, Internet surfing, playing with the FAO Schwartz warehouse of toys in the basement, being a 3 sport athlete (in the sports we want them in) and doing something that requires original thought and imagination on their part. The isolated tornados I refer to as my children want to do all of those things (and usually more). There is a time and place for all of the creative items the engineers at Sony, Steve Jobs, and little league commissioners offer for them. A time and place I am more than willing to allow and, at times, encourage.
But after the paint settles from our kitchen studio sessions, I can see in their eyes how proud they are of the work they created.
I hear how proud they are of it as they gasp for a breath explaining it to me.
Their heads tilt as they soak in all that their paintings or drawings have to offer hanging from the basement door.
It’s a look and exasperated explaination sports can give them once in a while but not on any consistent basis and the Wii has never given them. It’s a look, quite literally, that they created.
*you can see their imagination on paper under the 6213 Gallery Page to your right…your other right.