In my last post, I discussed painting Father’s Day gifts and the anxiety that came with that.
It’s funny because when I originally started writing that post, it was based on a newsletter that I had emailed out on Father’s Day, only 9 days earlier.
The topic was supposed to be about how my daughter painted ‘sloppily’ and thus, made mistakes.
As I wrote about the process, I began to realize that even though she made mistakes, she suffered no anxiety.
My son and I both suffered as that process continued, so on Tuesday, I wrote about that.
Today, I’ll talk about my daughter during that ordeal… what the original post was supposed to be about.
For Father’s Day, my daughter decided to paint a guitar. Well, she’s seven, and she needed help. I drew an outline with a pencil and she painted it.
Now, I’m not really an artist. I can’t draw. I’ve never been good at this sort of thing. But I do know basic shapes, so drawing a rough outline was relatively easy.
The only guidance I provided was, “This part will be brown; this part will be black; this part will be blue.”
With that in mind, she was able to begin. She started slowly and carefully, trying to keep within the faint lines I drew.
As she painted, however, she got more and more sloppy.
She painted the way some would dust – flicking the wrist with no rhyme or reason. Eventually her painting took her outside the pencil lines.
This led her to feel like she had made mistakes. Funny how different my response was when I replied to her comments than those would have been if I were talking to my inner critic.
“There are no mistakes in art. There are only beautiful imperfections. You will never be able to paint two pictures the same, so embrace the differences.”
She paused for a moment, and then continued on painting and flicking. I’d help her to blend, but otherwise, this was all her.
Different Takes on Acceptance
Two days later, I had to have this same conversation with my son. Parts of the stencil we placed on his canvas had bled, leaving imperfections on his work of art.
He wanted to fix it, but I convinced him this was a bad idea. I said it might work, but it would likely just highlight the blemish and make it worse.
And if we tried to start over, with a new canvas and a new stencil, we’d make a different set of imperfections.
Both my children accepted my explanations and moved on. These blemishes and paint outside the lines, had not held them back.
Both were excited to reveal their gifts to their father. Neither had said, “This is bad; let’s throw it out.”
This acceptance was enlightening for me.
I thought of how different it would have been if I had painted a picture.
I would have been upset with those “mistakes” as well, but I’m not sure I would have been able to convince myself to get over it.
I would not be able to see the complete picture; I’d only be able to see the things that should not have been there.
I may have even started over from the beginning if I knew I had more time.
I may have quit altogether and changed my mind about creating art as a gift.
What if I knew I didn’t have time to change my mind, to start over, or to buy something instead of create?
I likely would have given the gift with a sullen face, saying, “Sorry, I tried to be thoughtful, but instead I’m just giving you this lousy painting.”
If there is someone you love, or even like enough to create something for, that person most likely feels the same way about you.
Those feelings translate to appreciation.
- I appreciate you enough to paint you a picture.
- I appreciate that you took the time to paint a picture for me.
- It is mutual.
Knowing how I am, in this situation, I’d not only be sullen, but I’d point out all the things I did wrong.
Learning from Children
My children did not do this, fortunately. They each handed their gifts to their father, beaming with pride.
The editor in me is stopping here to point something out. Grammatically, who is beaming with pride in that sentence? “They” as in the kids, or “their father”…
Does it matter? Nope. They all beamed with pride.
My children each had their own variations of, “Look what we made for you, Daddy, isn’t it awesome?”
While my husband, lovingly took each piece of art, and asked them questions while also highlighting the things he loved.
There was so much pride and love in the room it was palpable.
We even allowed to the children to give their gifts separately. This allowed each child to have their moment with their father unshared by anyone else.
I feel like this would have been a completely different experience if it were my gift.
Suppose it was “Husband’s Day” instead of Father’s Day.
Let’s suppose I decided to create art as a gift, instead of spending dollars on whatever gift I could think of… probably a mug. I like mugs.
After spending a number of days painting the layers, and painfully working with stencils and the horrible transfer process, I’d have a piece of art that I could give to my spouse.
In the past, I probably would have scrapped the painting.
I would have either changed my mind halfway through, or hated it enough upon completion, that I would have binned the painting.
My Husband’s Day gift would have been an apology.
Sorry, I tried to paint something, disliked it, threw it out, and so instead you get nothing. Love you.
These days, I think I’d probably give it to him regardless of how much I disliked the end result.
My speech would have been more like “Here, I made this. Look at all the things that are wrong with it. You can throw it out if you want. At least I tried. Love you.”
Why do we expect everything to be either perfect or garbage? Why is there no middle ground?
That happy place in the middle is where all that pride comes from.
My children lovingly gave their gifts to their father, even though they knew those gifts weren’t perfect.
As an adult, I feel like this whole experience would have been blown by attitude.
I would have given an imperfect gift with shame and disappointment. I imagine my husband would have felt those feelings as he received that gift.
He may have tried to counter it with words like “It’s beautiful, you’re too hard on yourself.”
Who knows what he would have said in this hypothetical situation.
The point is that the moment would be ruined because of my attitude in presenting the gift that I worked so hard on.
I’m curious though, is this my anxiety talking? Or is this a function of adulthood?
Does everyone dwell on mistakes and imperfections?
We need to stop. I’m going to repeat what I said to my daughter, not just for you but for me as well. This should be our mantra.
There are no mistakes in life. There are only beautiful imperfections… embrace the differences.