When this is the scene beside the sink, it means that we've made a mess. It also means we've painted something. There are two things I want you to know about that, though - two things that I always notice when I watch children paint or draw or paper mache or glue or pile or smush or dig or create just about anything.
I'd like to interject here that I'm not artistically trained, I just don't mind watching kids make a mess. And I usually don't mind making a mess myself. I have watched a lot of kids creating messes. I was a teacher for a long time - I ran a preschool - I was a camp counselor - I taught art in my garage - my favorite part of having toddlers was letting them take their clothes off and paint like crazy in their high chairs. I wanted you to know that I was qualified to share the following points. I've been around the block, people.
When children create, they sing. Some of them sing loud and clear. Some of them hum. Some of them sing songs with real words and some of them sing something that sounds like a grocery list and others sing their stream of consciousness. They don't sing the same songs as those around them; they are not using three part harmony. Sometimes the songs are funny. Sometimes the songs are sweet. It's fun to hear.
On Sunday afternoon my kids were painting their pumpkins (note: they weren't painting their jack-o-lanterns because I thought it was a wonderful creative activity - they were actually painting them because I convinced them that painting them would be awesome and we wouldn't have all of that messy stringy stuff to deal with). Their singing was wonderful. I sat, mostly quiet, and listened. I liked it. They sounded happy.
Another thing that happens when children are painting or creating is that they have no stress. They might have been angry with one another minutes before they started creating. They might be going through a period of being anxious about something. Oddly enough, while they are mid-creation, there is no sign of stress. There is no anger. There is no competition. There is no worry. There is no negative energy - none. And no one involved is trying to be anyone other than themselves.
I was thinking about my kids, my artists. I was thinking about the joy I feel while they create; how I love to hear the music and watch the concentration and comfort on their faces.
I've been wondering why we don't all do more of this. I've been thinking about how I feel when I create, paint, dream. It's good for the soul, to be sure. I've been considering the ways that we grown-ups put up barriers to keep us from letting go the way children do. I've been wondering why. Of course we aren't all professional artists, but neither are any of the many children I've watched creating beautiful messes.
They aren't stopped or silenced by not being the best. A crazy perfectionism, worry, and fear do not stop children from expressing themselves.
When do we lose that? Why do we let it go? Don't we want to sing unabashedly and allow stress to fall away?
You're not an artist? Yes, you are.
You don't have the supplies? Yes, you do.
You can't sing? Who cares.
Don't think the stress could be lifted? Try it.