Learning From My Children

My children are always eager to learn.

“Wow! That looks wonderful. Will you teach me to crochet too? Do you think I could make a blanket like yours?”

They always seem willing to have a go. They don’t worry about the possibility of failing.

But me?

I’m an adult and I’ve learnt a few unfortunate adult habits. I do like to learn new things and I attempt to gain new skills all the time. But sometimes, if someone is watching, and there’s the possibility I could fail and make a fool of myself, well… maybe I don’t even try.

“Can you serve in tennis, Mum? Will you show us how?”

“I could serve as a child,” I say as I take the racquet, throw the ball into the air… and miss by a mile. One more attempt and I give up. Was anyone watching? I creep back home deciding tennis isn’t for me. My children remain on the court and keep throwing balls and keep swinging racquets. Soon they’ll be able to serve and I guess I never will.

For months I’ve been watching my children draw. I haven’t passed on any artistic talents to them. I didn’t teach them. They just decided they’d like to draw so I supplied materials and encouragement and they went off and experimented. My children haven’t worried about the results.  If they don’t like how their drawings turn out, they just do another one. With time and persistence, they have become quite skilful. I’m rather envious.

Secretly I harbour a desire to draw. I don’t have any lofty ambitions. I don’t yearn to be a portrait artist like my sister Vicky. I just want to have fun experimenting with shapes and colours. I just want to doodle away solely for my own pleasure and relaxation. But I have told everyone I can’t draw. I have told myself I can’t draw. Really, I have been too afraid to try.

Then the other day I was thinking about how my children learn, how they just try without worrying about the results. So I thought perhaps I could do the same.

I gathered together some watercolour paper, some pencils, paints, an eraser, a Sharpie permanent marker (the girls all say a Sharpie marker is essential) and decided to draw, just like my children. Draw? Perhaps doodle is a better word.

I doodled some flowers with a pencil and then inked them with my trusty Sharpie marker, just like I’ve seen my children doing. I coloured them in with some watercolour pencils. Next, I took a water-laden brush and swiped it over my doodle and I got so excited when the colours started to flow and blend. I couldn’t wait to try another doodle. I then wondered what would happen if I used watercolour paint instead of pencils. Should I paint first or ink the doodles first? I was having a great time and the results, though not works of art, were good enough to produce a very satisfying feeling: flowers looked like flowers; I liked the combinations of colour in my pictures; I worked out a few watercolour tricks. Soon I had the courage to show my children.

“Wow! Mum, did you draw that? I love the colours! Did you use paints or watercolour pencils?”

My drawings weren’t very good, but my children were very generous with their praise and encouragement. If they’d said, “What is it supposed to be?” or “I wouldn’t have done it that way, Mum,” and had started giving me drawing advice, I would probably have never drawn another picture again. But I returned to my desk and paints, with a big smile on my face, thinking, “Hey! I can do this! The kids like my pictures!” Since then, I have really been enjoying doodling. With time and repeated effort, my doodles may even one day turn into something worth sharing.

I guess I am back to the topic of encouragement and discouragement. Yes, words can really have an important effect, especially on our inclination to learn.

“Do you think I should post some of my doodles on my blog?”

“Well… maybe… Of course, you should Mum!”

Yes, perhaps I will. I shall be like my children. I shall say with great excitement and confidence, “Hey! Look at my pictures! I had great fun doodling them.” I won’t think about failure or looking foolish or negative comments.

I haven’t got time for that. I’m far too busy thinking, “Now what shall I draw next?”

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