Compared to parenting, painting has felt like a breeze. Although I’ve struggled in the studio lately– trying to find the rhythm I once took for granted, the real challenge has been forming, shaping, supporting, molding, nurturing the little human being somehow entrusted to my care.
This month has brought on a trying series of events beginning with a call from my son’s preschool asking me to pick him up early because he was continuing to hit his friends and ending with yesterday’s episode involving some of my newest paintings and a three year old who had located both my palette knife and my still-wet paints. I wasn’t present (he was with his grandmother) but I hope he at least enjoyed the process of smearing mostly red (his favorite color by far) paint all over my newest abstract diptych, which I’d foolishly left on the floor since both canvases won’t fit on my broken easel. Sigh. Woe is me.
I used to mock self-help books (because as is the case with most mocked things, I had no experiential knowledge of them), but I now find myself reading them even more than my beloved fiction. My latest literary adventure has been with Codependent No More which has revealed to me more personal dysfunction than I thought possible and also this strange idea of detachment.
I’ve realized how much of my own worth and happiness I place on the shoulders of a child whose brain is neither fully developed nor capable of making decisions that do not involve instant gratification.
It’s not that I intend to detach from him but rather the idea that my mood, stability, ability to function, well-being is determined by his behavior. If he misbehaves, I’ll still be okay. I’m still a person.
I realize this sounds frightfully simple and obvious, but when your whole world is made or broken by the manners/fits/sweetness/outbursts of a child, it might just be downright revolutionary.
I typically take everything he does personally and worry constantly that others judge my son’s behavior by what they deem my inefficient single parenting. It’s nonsensical for more reasons than I have time to mention.
With my art, I’ve been able to achieve something I haven’t quite yet with parenting– the ability to do my thing consistently, devotedly, wholeheartedly, knowing my limitations and room for growth without the world falling apart when someone has a negative thought, idea, or notion (real or perceived) about what I’m doing. I wrote about this in depth in a guest post on my talented writer friend’s blog.
At my art booth last weekend, a woman who was browsing my paintings, whispered incredulously to her companion about one of my smaller pieces: “115 dollars!? That’s ludicrous!”
She probably doesn’t shop art very often. My prices are pretty darn reasonable given where I am in my career. On top of that (and this represents major growth for me) maybe I misheard her. Maybe she really said, “115 dollars!? That’s delicious.” Or “righteous”. Or “hmm. I have a baby in my uterus.” It’s possible.
I spent enough of my early years babysitting wild boy children to know that the most obstinate, hard-headed, destructive boys can and do turn into compassionate, empathic, high-achieving young men.
Over a year ago, I found myself on a long drive with a friend of a friend to a mutual friend’s bachelorette party. In the midst of our casual conversation about our kids and jobs, she asked how I was going to handle the major problems my son would inevitably have due to the fact that his biological father wasn’t super active in his life. She also thought it important to outline the problematic life of her nephew whom she perceived to be in a similar situation.
That me was horrified. Offended. Insulted. Hurt. Angry. I wanted to punch her in the face. How would she like it if I asked how she would handle the problems her son would have given his mom is a jerk who should mind her own business!
This me, looking back at it, says, “meh.” Or is at least trying to. Afterall, when we don’t really understand something or have any experience with it, we typically form inaccurate, uniformed ideas. I remember an old me who scoffed at the self help books I’d never bothered to open. I’m glad others did not punch me in the face every time I said or thought something ignorant.
As often happens, I’m taking some advice from my art life over into my parenting life. I learned I wasn’t my art and that that was okay. I’m learning now that I’m not my son’s triumphs or defeats. That we are both not only okay but getting better through our daily practices of love and learning.
If you’re a parent and any of this makes any sense at all, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Thanks!