In the evenings at our house, in those interminable minutes while we try to finish preparing dinner, the two older kids are often “bored” and don’t know what to do with themselves. Recently, Griffin shuffled into the kitchen and asked me forlornly, “Daddy, what can I do right now?” He wasn’t asking, “How can I help?” No, this was a bitter expression of hopelessness in the face of far too few minutes of screen time.
I usually reply with something snarky like, “Go stare at a wall!” (Never very effective, but surprisingly satisfying.) Last week, however, I came up with something new. Perhaps a parenting lesson from ECFE finally sank in. Or maybe it arose from the fact that I was facilitating an immersive “design thinking” week at school. Instead of snark or exasperation, I said, “YES! Quick, get a piece of paper and a pen. Draw a shape that represents you in a color that represents your mood!” (I was riffing off of an icebreaker from a recent workshop.) Startled by my specificity, Griffin immediately went to his desk and did it, coming back with a multicolored blob that included a variety of emotions (including “hungry” and “bored,” but also some positive ones). Then he asked for another “art challenge.” And I heard the distant sound of angels singing.
Art challenges have become a fun new activity to keep the gremlins of our witching hour at bay. Maggie, of course, joined in too. Below are a couple of examples of their responses to my challenges from the last few days.
I’m not deluded enough to imagine that this will work forever, but I’m enjoying it while it lasts. And I do love watching their artwork evolve.
A gallery of art that Griffin created over the past few months (7 years old). Most of these were created at the art table, often in the morning when Griffin likes to come downstairs and create art before the rest of us get up.
Apparently this is me trying to lick a dolphin (for real). But seriously, I can’t say enough about our art classes at Art with Ellen! Ellen is an amazing teacher with attention to detail specific to the age group she’s working with. Maggie is a reluctant artist in the sense that she often feels like she’s “doing it wrong.” Ellen brings so much enthusiasm and positive guidance, Maggie has been flourishing. Thank you to Grummy for this gift of classes! We’ve both been thoroughly enjoying them.
Early on Maggie’s birthday, while I was blearily making my breakfast in the kitchen, Griffin quietly padded downstairs and hunkered down at the art table. In less than an hour, he produced a series of eight surprise paintings as a gift for his sister. After drying them on the radiator, he kept them in a secret pile until we opened presents in the evening. He presented each one to Maggie with a title and a short explanation.
The Park It’s not a play park. It’s just a park that you can run around in.
Sunny Day on the Beach It’s about a beach that’s blue and sunny. It’s always sunny. And it’s always fun to play at.
A Tree Losing its Leaf “This a tree that lost its leaf when it was spring and it was just a little maple tree that didn’t have any other trees around it. It was in the middle of nowhere and no one gave water to it and it was just in the middle of nowhere.”
Funky World “This unknown world that has a green sun and the houses look like hand prints. This funky world is like so funny.”
A Tree With No Leaves “This tree is so new that it doesn’t even have its leaves yet. It’s just like a little baby tree and it is a maple tree.”
The Roller Coaster “That’s a roller coaster that has only roller coasters in the fair.”
The Cave “It’s a cave with all these teeth and some scary eyes and the purple line if you were wondering it is a spike in the cave.”
The Alien “This alien lives in space and it’s always happy and it has one eye and this is a green eye and it’s always smiling unless if it’s mad.”