The artistic aerobics of parenthood | Living with Gleigh

Some most amazing feelings are the times when you feel like an especially good parent. For me it was when my kids were little and they wanted to paint.

When children want to paint it’s no small feat for a parent. You have to be willing and ready to rip down dripping wet “works of art,” find a place for them to dry, and slap up a fresh sheet of paper before the child starts painting walls and floors. I would do this aerobic painting often when my kids were small.

I reveled in the end result of their satisfied little egos. Works of art that weren’t just black blobs, unless the child had named and identified the black blob, got hung up for a time; making sure one child’s blob wasn’t more important than the other child’s blob. I encouraged their artistic talents with genuine admiration for their creations.

When my oldest daughter was in preschool, I would hang her original artworks on corkboard I had installed on the computer/craft room door and take a picture of it at the end of every month.

But you know how it is with subsequent children, you tend to forget what you did with the first. I tried really hard to remember to hang and take those pictures with my youngest daughter’s preschool art.

I had a feeling of panic several years down the road when I wondered if I successfully took a picture every month of my youngest daughter’s work.

To tell you the truth, I can’t remember how I did, but I must’ve done okay, because fixations like that come to me in my nightmares of bad motherhood.

Now my kids are 18 and 16 years old. I haven’t done aerobic painting for many, many years. They create their drawings and paintings locked in the sanctuary of their rooms. I don’t have to clean up messes on the floors or walls or dump the buckets of dirty paint water.

Their childhood artwork has been reduced to a wall I refer to as my “happy wall” — poster-size Mother’s Day and Christmas poems and prints of feet and hands are framed and hung in my dining room.

Mother’s day plates with my “portrait” hang on a specially purchased, black iron, plate rack above the posters (the first one my oldest daughter did where the eyes and hair and mouth are difficult to point out in an eclectic jumble of colors, depicts the rudiments of my psyche in those days — children are brilliant observers). There are two stuffed, paper salmon in the hallway from their fourth grade studies, one from each child.

Fret not, for I still have new art to hang.

My youngest daughter begged me to take down her eighth grade art towards the end of her freshman year, so I replaced it with my oldest daughter’s senior-year art. Now that my oldest daughter is at Green River Community College taking art classes, she herself finds a new place for her art in the hallway.

My youngest daughter’s work from an art class this first semester as a sophomore found its way to the hall, plus she also has quietly taken up acrylic painting on her own and her first creation is the background screen on my computer. My pride is palpable. My daughters’ artistic talents take my breath away, my admiration is genuine.

Someday, when their school art had been reduced to a few favorite pieces and they are off working on their careers, the hallway will be riddled with thumb tack holes. I will look at those holes with pride, and know I have been an especially good parent.

Gretchen Leigh is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Covington. She is continually in a state of genuine admiration for her daughters. You can also read more of her writing and her daily blog on her website or on Facebook at “Living with Gleigh.”


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