Last night I spent a wonderful evening with my lovely 4 year old daughters History and Mystery. They had spent part of the day coloring with Jody and had shifted from one creative activity to another, namely dancing. Both of the girls had turned on their electric keyboards to play pre-recorded songs, neither in sync with the other, and had begun dancing with the free and unselfconscious joy that only young children can truly manage.
It was a beautiful scene to watch, and was one of those glowing moments when as a parent you feel on top of the world. That natural high was about to take a severe drop...as you might have guessed from the title of the post.
As happens every night, and too quickly every night, the clock ticked past seven and thus initiated parenting subroutine 8.(e).D.7.1.(m).3. That's right, it was bedtime. It was time to take a quick bath, brush teeth, read stories, and sing a bed time song. None of this was out of the ordinary. There was also what appeared to be the typical groaning about how either History or Mystery had yet to finish some entertaining task, which usually amounts to "but Dad...Ironman needs to go defend the castle" or some similar activity. This evening though, History was upset that she hadn't been able to finish coloring the pictures she had been working on earlier in the day. Jody and I assured her that there would be plenty of time to color them tomorrow, maybe even when mom was working on some drawings of her own.
That's when it happened. Mystery looked right at Jody and then at me and asked, "Why am I not an artist like mom? I want to be an artist like mom." I immediately felt as if, Mola Ram had reached into my chest, pulled out my heart, and left it burning in his hands laughing maniacally. I was stunned for a moment as I tried to find a way to tell a 4 year old that:
1) Yes you can be an artist like mom. You can be anything you want to be.
2) That some things take time to learn, and show her how she was more comfortable drawing and coloring now than she was a year ago.
a) I'm not one to tell History or Mystery that they are now "better" at a task like drawing and
coloring at an age when they should be experimenting and feeling free.
The books on parenting provide wonderful advice, but they don't do anything for the sinking feeling one feels in ones chest when a child expresses disillusionment at a perceived limitation.