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Posts Tagged ‘determination’

nov 4 2008 005

None of my kids are particularly artistic. This is a picture that Tee crayoned when he was about six, or maybe even seven (on what I’m guessing must have been a gloomy day). Note the lack of detail, the wing-like hands extending directly from the trunk, and the missing facial features.

That being said, I don’t think that many people are born artists.

Outside of the few people who do seem born with natural drawing talent, I think that most of us get good at drawing or painting in the way that we get good at other things. By practicing. Kids who are interested in drawing do it more than kids who aren’t, and they get better and better at it. They’ll be the ones that are more likely to take art classes, and they’ll get better still, which will spur them on to practice even more. A lovely positively reinforcing circle which leads to artistic skill.

When the kids were homeschooling, I used Drawing With Children to teach them a bit about art. I was surprised at how quickly their drawing improved, even with just a few small pointers. Once the lessons stopped, their drawing skills stagnated, and they didn’t progress much at all, but the experience cemented my belief that if there’s something you want to do, just go ahead and give it a try, even if you don’t think you’re going to be good at it.

Almost anything can be learned.

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One Folk Festival, so many stories to tell.
This one is about Jay and the tightrope.
In this picture, she’s being helped across the rope by the kindly volunteer. I took the photo, thinking she’d go across a few times and then move on to any one of the other fun circus activities that were set up outside the family tent. I should have known better. I should have sat myself down on the grass right then and there and made myself comfortable. From Jay’s perspective, crossing that tightrope alone was at least theoretically possible, and that was enough for her to take on the challenge.
Sometimes there were ten kids in the lineup, other times she was able to finish the attempt and hop right back on again, sometimes she fell off right away, other times she made it halfway across. All that mattered to her was that she was making even microscopic improvements at least some of those times.
This was one of the rare times in my parenting career that I didn’t have to cut short the fun, so I decided to let her keep at it for as long as she wanted. Which turned out to be forever. It wasn’t until the cable was pulled out of the logs that she stopped, and by then she’d managed to go from the hand-clutching wobbly beginner to a girl who knew how to cross a tightrope all by herself. She’d also managed to collect an audience, many of whom were called over by the volunteer who wanted witnesses to her single-minded determination. Look at this kid! She’s been at it for I don’t know how long! She just keeps on getting into the line! Look out Mom, she’s going to run away with the circus! I wasn’t worried about her wanting to join up with any circus. I knew that once the tightrope was done with she’d forget about it completely and move on to something else. It wasn’t the thrill of balancing on the rope that she cared about. It was the challenge.

When she was on attempt #324, I pulled her aside and whispered that I thought her determination was possibly her greatest strength. That there might be braver or more talented people in the world, but that she had the determination of ten of them.

She looked me in the eye, smiled, and got right back in line.

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