I once read a mother doesn't need the bouquet of dandelions her child brings to her, but the child needs to pick them. She needs to give the gift. I remember this when my artist presents me with her latest creation.
Elizabeth often says, "Mommy, I want to be an artist when I grow up."
I respond wholeheartedly, "You already are an artist," but I sometimes cringe when faced with where to display the many projects she creates daily. How simple it would be if she merely colored pages in a coloring book and showed them to me, as I did when I was a child. But then I didn't grow up to be an artist!
Her socks rarely match, but what an eye for detail. Elizabeth sees beauty, and usefulness, in everything. Tissue paper from gift bags, old maps, used stickers, toilet paper rolls, seed catalogs – these are all items of inspiration. Her brother (who is in fourth grade but still saves pre-school craft projects) accuses her of being a pack-rat. And like Templeton, she has piles of useful things amidst her dolls and toys – and I suspect Wilbur kept a neater pigpen than her bedroom.
When she was two years old, she would sit on the kitchen floor while I cooked supper. I'd turn around to see her in the midst of a pile of crayons and coloring books and papers. Most of the time I'd see the mess, but on a few inspired days, I'd see her drawings and realize I was fostering her spirit of creativity.
When she was four and horses were her love, I traced pictures of horses and ponies for her to color. Every day. For weeks! She wanted to color "another" horse every day, so I taped a master "horse-coloring page" to a sunny window, put a piece of paper over it and traced. Next were princesses. She wanted me to draw them for her to color. I'm no artist. I tried my hand at a few (Sleeping Beauty was actually recognizable), but made sure to get a new ink cartridge for the printer on my next trip to Staples, so I could employ someone else's artwork for her to color.
Her creativity has grown exponentially since then. Not only does she color and paint, she creates! She doesn't limit herself to drawing pictures – she sculpts paper and cardboard into bears, giraffes, and people. At meal time she must remove the shreds of paper and her projects from the table. Her father is sure that the glue stick and crayon residue have ruined the table (I somehow always manage to get it clean).
My "bouquets" include dandelions, acorns, tissue paper sculptures, and lots of beaded necklaces. By encouraging Elizabeth's artwork, I hope she learns to appreciate others and the bouquets she's offered throughout her life.