We are a house of little artists. Never much for coloring books, all three of my girls are suckers for a new ream of bright white paper. As their mama I love to watch the shapes they make, what colors they use, and most of all, how patient they are when it comes to their creations. My oldest, Octavia, will draw entire scenes of a girl walking her dog or a girl in the bathtub, and of course each one has a story. Adeline has the patience to sit for hours with a box of crayons, and June repeatedly rubs a marker back and forth until she rips a hole through the page and runs off. Artists, to each their own.
As a mom, I’m a hoarder of all things my kids make. I mean, more pages of stick people than any file cabinet could hold, and this is just the second year of our collecting. To rid myself at least a little bit of the mom guilt that comes from tossing anything in the trash, I started using my girls’ pictures as the thank you cards for my business. It was fun to tell the assembly line that I needed 5 pictures for boxes headed out tomorrow and watch them go to work. And I admit, it was even more fun to share my girls’ work with others. As time passed, if anyone liked a particular picture they had drawn, they would hand it to me and say “Oh, this is a good one mom. You should send it to your friends.” Yes, they refer to my customers as friends, and I think it’s adorable.
Then something happened. Octavia would meet someone new and want to draw them a picture or “make them a card.” When kindergarten started, the bus driver was the first recipient, to which my bubbly 5-year-old presented her with a piece of paper with crunchy, brown leaves taped to it. I found myself thinking “Oh honey, that picture is not your best work, the bus driver is going to think you’re goofy.” And just a few days ago, as we were sitting at a car dealership waiting (and waiting, and waiting) to purchase a vehicle, my petite, feisty three-year-old June wanted to present coloring pages to everyone in the service area as she saw them waiting for their cars. “I want to give this one to the lady right there, mom. She will like it.”
In a world of so much criticism, I want to protect my kids. I want them to forever believe that everything that comes from their hands is the most amazing piece of work that has ever existed. I want them to hand everything over to me upon completion so I can gush over it and encourage them to continue their pursuit of creativity. I never want to see their ambition crushed or their intentions poorly received. As someone who bears their soul constantly through my own work, this is the “Mom Shield” I have created for my kids, so that they can avoid the second guessing experiences I have had over the years.
But I have strong-willed, determined children. I have girls that, at three and five years old, already question mommy every chance they get. I have persistent girls, and thus trying to shield them constantly proved exhausting when it came to finding logical reasons for them not to gift someone what they had made. And it was through this persistence that I realized, I have molded this mindset. They have watched me, from the moment they were born in fact, sit at my sewing machine and create things for people. When I asked them to use their drawings in my packages, I brought them right into the thick of it as partners. They associate what they make with a crayon and paper as a means of sharing a display of kindness, happiness, gratitude, and cheer. Honestly, they probably get it more than I do.
As I was placing the umpteenth picture inside my daughter’s school folder that read “I love my teacher,” I realized the world needs more of this. There is no such thing as ugly displays of gratefulness. There is no such thing as too much happy, even if I can’t tell what that shape she drew is supposed to be. And when my daughter wants to show kindness to a friend or stranger, it is not for me to anticipate how that person will react, but it is up to me to nurture that desire in her. Because the world will try to change her one day; she will be greeted with a situation where she is not accepted. But its up to me to ensure that she has had umpteen previous situations where her desire to give has been received with the same enthusiasm I would show her. Together, we will spread a little kindness, and my file cabinet will never be full.