"Well, I didn't win the art contest." These are the words you hate to hear come from your child's mouth. You hate hearing them more than you hate saying them yourself. You believe you could handle not winning, but when your child comes home and says these words, you feel a sharp, hot pain. One that only gets worse when you are told, "I knew I wasn't going to win because on the day when we were voting in the library, I was the only person who was by my piece of my artwork. I voted for myself." At that point, it was a struggle for me to hold back the tears.
I knew she wasn't going to win. When she worked on the piece for the PTA sponsored contest, her heart didn't seem to be in it. She just threw some paint down without much effort. I asked if she was sure she was done, and she insisted she was. Part of me wanted to tell her to try again but I tend to walk gingerly around her creativity and felt that she might take it as a criticism of art rather than a criticism of her effort. I was unsure of my decision, but I let it be.
Then the fateful day came and she didn't win. She didn't even place. And I thought my heart would break, imagining her standing alone by her painting in the library as student after student walked by her. But I held back my emotion and looking down (trying to pretend it wasn't a big deal) I asked her how she felt. She shrugged. "It's okay. I just need to try harder next time." There was no shaking in her voice, no indication that she was putting on a brave face. Then she ran off to play, and left me to wonder where she developed her ability to let criticism roll off her back. To be so confident in her abilties that a little set back could be used as fodder for improvement rather than a session of self-deprecation.
As I (once again) set-off into the world, clutching my artwork and hoping that it might be "good enough", terrified that I will be left standing alone next to it, I need to remember my eight year old's wise words. A little criticism doesn't mean I'm a bad person or a bad artist. It can simply be used as fuel to improve and further ignite my passion for my work. Thank you baby girl for sharing your vulnerability and wise words with me. As I've said so many times before, you are everything I never knew I wanted.
*Note, the photo on this post is not her contest entry, it is a piece she did the other day-it's probably one of my favorite pieces EVER!