I remember saying—-too many times to count—-that when I had kids, I wouldn’t give them gender-specific toys. These were the black and white days of my twenties, and now that I’m older I see myself drifting into an unexpected area. Now that I’m a parent and I happen to have a creative-scholar boy child, one who isn’t into sports, I see a need to create products for kids like him. He is talented. At age nine, he can make work on his own but like many kids he could use a little help with composition now and again. He could also use a boost to his self-esteem. That’s why I’m specifically including a collection of BOYS STUFF in the line of THATARTGIRL Panels.
There was a lot more available when my kids were very young—like in the 3-6 year range. At the age of 5 I started to notice a change with some of the other boys too. My son was at a kindergarten birthday party, (back when all kids in the class were invited to your birthday party) and they were having a dance-off. All of the kids were dancing their hearts out until a Frozen song came on. The “athletic/cool”popular” boys (this is kindergarten, remember) all looked at each other and deliberately took themselves out of the dance party. They stood against the wall with arms folded across their chests, refusing to dance to this, what they referred to as a “girls’ song.” (OK, I just have to ask, how did they learn this? Did they witness their own fathers in the same stance because SO MANY heterosexual men conduct themselves in this manner!) My son was oblivious to what was going on and joyfully danced away until he finally started noticing that he was the only boy on the floor. He looked at me with confused eyes as the other boys shouted, “Are you SURE that you want to dance to THIS song?” It was obvious that he didn’t know what to do because YES! he did want to dance to that song. He was having a blast at the dance party. I encouraged him to stay right where he was but it didn’t take long for him to join the boys on the wall. Heartbreaking!
I teach private art classes in my house and again, my son is often times the only boy. I see him getting further and further away from his talent. I urge him to stay with it but honestly these days, I’m not having much luck in that department. I wonder if there’s a societal pull that I’m unaware of that encourages girls to do creative endeavors and boys to stick with math and stuff. Sometimes I’m so engrossed with what I do that I miss these things. When I was teaching in the high school I saw many examples of children being encouraged to take a different path from what they wanted to do. Many kids who wanted to go to art school, and were talented enough to get there, were told by parents that it wasn’t an option for them. This is often the case for writers, musicians, actors….all the creative types. I do believe that if people do what makes them happy, then this world would be a much kinder and happier place. I for one, am here to encourage and coach creativity. In a world where you can be anything, be an artist if you can! And a word of gentle advice: if your child is pulling away from their first love of making art because they are afraid to live the artist life, tell them you will help them through it. Encourage them to paint. It really does make everything better!