30 September 2012

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Doozer

The wife heard of a newish practice recently where parents ask their kid what they want to be when they grow up on the first day of every school year (some get creative and take a photo with the occupation printed on a sign, etc.) to see how the answer evolves over time.

So we presented this query to the Doozer around the start of the new school year. And without hesitation, he responded, “An artist.” We both smiled. Instantly. We were glad to hear it. We must’ve been doing something right. (We would worry later on, wonder if we’d actually done something horribly wrong and steered him in the wrong direction, toward a life of heartbreak, rejection, and abject failure—but maybe that’s just our experience of being artists.)

But then he started to reconsider. “Or maybe . . . ” He considered this thought for a moment, as if weighing his options. What would he say? we wondered. Was there something else? He likes to help out in the kitchen. The next Anthony Bourdain? Likes the drums—the next Dave Grohl, perhaps?

“No,” he finally said. “I want to be an artist.” Why? We asked him. So he can paint and draw and make things out of clay, like Angry Birds. (Yes, he’s actually done this.)

But he was being modest. Sure, he paints and draws and shapes Angry Birds out of clay. But his real masterpiece, these days, is arranging tableaus—of everything. Toys, cars, action figures, blocks. They’re intricate and elaborate, like Wes Anderson-esque dioramas. And they are everywhere. He would cover every square inch of the house if we let him. Like something out of Hoarders.

Lately, I’ve heard a lot of stories about people who pursued some kind of art, who were originally inspired by what they saw of their parents, artists or bohemians or whatever they were. And it made me realize that I’d like to do the same. Inspire him. Set an interesting example.

Because we are entering that new phase, where there’s this new dimension to your role as a parent. Being a role model, not just the person who ensures that this kid survives one day to the next, is fed and clothed and housed, etc. This new role is more complicated. Complex. He’s turning into a real person and it’s a journey we have to participate in and sometimes guide him on. Nurture his dreams. Show him what it means to be a dreamer. Create an atmosphere and an environment to start him on that journey. Have a home filled with books and music and movies and photographs and art.

And I’d say this is one thing we’re doing right. He likes the Decemberists. And the Beatles. He’s seen Rocky and Bullwinkle and Monty Python. We even took him to check out Camera Solo, the Patti Smith photography exhibit, at the Detroit Institute of Arts. He particularly enjoyed her photo of the Eiffel Tower and the guitar that belonged to Fred “Sonic” Smith that was on display.

And attempting to be this positive creative influence to him is inspiring. Invigorating. It makes me want to pursue my own dreams, create even more art. Dream big, want more. Be inspired.

Of course, there’s another part of me that just wants to tell him to run like hell the other way. To put a pin in those dreams. Prepare him for the harsh, cruel reality of what a truly brutal world we live in.

But that would be wrong, right? Still, dissuading him is tempting. 

Damn, parenting is hard work. I was just getting used to the whole keeping him clothed, fed, and housed thing. This really throws a wrinkle in there.

I’m not cut out for this, am I?

Don’t answer that.

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