Pre-Rockstar I used to love Artjamming, and used to paint (not particularly well) while I was pregnant with him as well… But I hadn’t realized it was kid-friendly and so held off coming back… To my surprise when I check out Artjamming.com, they’ve got school field trips, and they assure me they’ve been doing events for some of the ESF Primary schools as well.
The youngest Artjammer if I remember correctly, is 18 months. Otherwise, “We don’t charge for the child if they can’t stand up. Then they are a painting utensil,” one of the business owners tells me. Hee hee. Well I’m not sure if the paint is baby-friendly (forgot to ask) but apparently mums have been known to put baby footprints to canvas to “finish” their paintings – even if they don’t have their babies do the whole thing, I guess.
Not knowing how Rockstar would react, especially since he doesn’t have much interest in paints generally, only pen sketches, we dropped by quickly for a look-see after school one day. Rockstar’s verdict: He wanted to come back during the holidays. Still a little dubious, I brought home a canvas for practice, which Rockstar quickly dug into and eventually became a mess of muddy paint. With much glee.
(Well, his favorite color is black, occasionally navy… Which might make an interesting topic for another time.. Though he did get taken by all the other colors available on tap too, when we went back that day…)
I suggest having a think about what he wants to draw before we go back to the shop, and Rockstar spends a short while Magnadoodling to decide what he wants to put on canvas. Then he gets there and very civilized-ly chooses to start penciling in an outline before starting to paint.
(It occurred to me if I really want an arty-farty abstract painting to hang at home, I should get two canvases, and then quickly save one (not much fun for the boys who obviously want to sling paint and glitter about with abandon) and leave them to go to town on the other…)
But parenting has a way, just when you are lulled into a smug sense of Ah Piece Of Cake – I Could Handle More Than One, of delivering your self esteem a real kick in the gut. So You Thought You Were Just Marvellous Isit? Hai…. YA!! Take that. Right where it hurts. Your pride.
Things are going swimmingly, until Rockstar offers to paint jellyfish, his friend’s favorites, and is politely turned down by my mummy friend (who meant to encourage him to carry on with his own painting of houses). I emerge from the bathroom just in time to catch the onset of the storm. Hurt, offended Rockstar bawls loud and long, before standing in the middle of the room snuffling for the longest time. An older boy of maybe 8 or 10 (gorgeous light hazel eyes and Asian!) who was finishing a painting accompanied by his helper repeatedly worm-dances across the floor in an effort to cheer Rockstar up. After cuddling him while he sobs, I ask him to carry on. But the Rockstar now stands in sullen silence in the middle of the room. Enter The Incredible Sulk.
I was sympathetic before, the Rockstar had been very well-meaning. But at some point he really does have to get over it. Because I can’t help every unwitting remark that’s going to be said to him. My best bet is to get him to be able to handle it. Bearing in mind grownups often struggle getting this skill down too. You can get mad and hurt, and you will, let’s not pretend you are either a robot or dead. But you cannot let it affect your performance. Pet peeve alert. Something un-worth it shouldn’t cost you like that, the “waste” drives me nuts.
Finally I leave him and turn to my own canvas where I start huffily splashing paint on. It’s a half hour or more, and valiant, solicitous efforts by both my friend and her son are in vain. I ask everyone to leave huffy Rockstar alone and tell him we leave latest 6pm when the place closes, with or without his canvas.
Finally, Rockstar strikes up an unrelated conversation with my back as I continue to paint, but still refuses to go back to his canvas. I bite back frustration. He practiced for that bloody HKD 400 canvas that I have now paid for “twice” (Artjamming charges a “recycled canvas” charge of HKD 400 if you bring a previously bought canvas back and I had done just that because at the last we didn’t have the time to finish the second canvas I bought, before our playdate day rolled by).
It’s not even about the cost, I just didn’t want to waste the canvas anyway and Kings’ aversion for clutter makes me not want to keep extras at home. But. Rockstar practiced and planned for that painting. He actually prepared for it and now he’s throwing it all away. We were going to hang it where he could see it often, it was going to be a whole motivating thing for him. Crap. Him scaring the living daylights out of my good friend (because her remark somehow set him off) is almost worth it, but – Nope. I want him to not tank his efforts over something petty. Yes, I know he’s four. But. I want him to not tank his efforts over something petty.
Oh wait. Rockstar has decided to carry on, politely asking for his apron back. Phew. Crisis averted. We’re outta the woods. Yes, melodramatic. Shutup. I know. And then I turn from my own canvas and glare.
There, as Houses In Night Sky takes shape, my child is painting jellyfish smack in the center of each of his Houses. Seemingly oblivious to my annoyance. (He. Doesn’t. Even. Like. Jellyfish!! I suggested this morning if his friend wasn’t too interested in the canvases it was a good way of getting his attention, and he had agreed that was a good idea, which was probably why he was offering jellyfish earlier – and now there he is.) Painting smiley faces on bloody jellyfish smack in the middle of his Houses. Cartoon smiling jellyfish are mocking me.
If they could move, they would flick tentacles over smug, smiling cheeks and stick their tongues out. So You Thought You Were Brilliant At The Whole Parenting Thing? HAH!!
Artjam staff and my girlfriend are wondering why there are now jellyfish on the houses. I know why. “You’re doing that because you’re still angry at being turned down when you offered to paint jellyfish for your friend, aren’t you?” <solemn nod> Yes. I’m going to have to let the afternoon go. No proper artwork out of the Rockstar today.
“Whose canvas was spoiled because you couldn’t control your temper? You practiced hard for that, and now you’re throwing away your own canvas and afternoon.”
“You can throw (the canvas) away, Mum.”
“I should bring it home and put it in your room to remind you of what you did to your own drawing today. It was stupid. You can’t help what other people say to you, but you can help whether it spoils your day for no reason and you just threw away your own hard work. You should remember that, but I don’t, because looking at it makes me angry.”
We let the boys trash Rockstar’s canvas, which they do with huge relish, smearing over the jellyfish-houses, throwing paint at it, sprinkling (or really blowing on) lots of glitter.
And then it’s time to leave, and I ask Rockstar if I should bring his destroyed painting home and display it somewhere. At first he says no, but after maybe the third time as we leave, he relents.
Ok, maybe there’s hope for a Plan B then.
“You want to fix that? Then instead of an art piece titled The Time I Ruined My Own Artwork I Practiced For, you can have one that says The Time I Didn’t Give Up And Fixed My Own Mess. “
And so here is the Rockstar doing over in his pajamas the following morning…
(I bought a bottle of white paint in a dispenser from Artjam and then gave him one of those sponges for washing dishes…)
Slowly, we smear white paint over the mess. And then Rockstar starts again on what he originally planned. (You can just make out the Magnadoodle at the side of the pic.)
A bleary-eyed Kings (sleeping off severe jet lag and a cold) staggers out past dinnertime to say the pic looks a bit creepy. Like some spooky alien fog attacking an unsuspecting city at night. Rockstar insists the purple thing is a machine, not an alien, and it’s there to attack alien rocket ships that try to land among these houses. Oh, and the whole houses thing can apparently blast off into space together.
Yeah ok sure, anything, he’s fixed the mess (and I don’t mean the paint splatters and glitter-blowing he and friend had so much fun with). And so creepy Not-Alien Thing With Houses That Can Blast Off Together now hangs in a place of prominence near where Rockstar can see it when he enjoys his long baths/ showers at the end of the day. (It’s when he goes about remembering his favorite parts of the day, and I wanted him to see that painting often and remember how it felt to fix it.)
“I feel more than proud. I feel perfectly proud……”
Then I crashed and went to bed as soon as I could. That darn thing took about 4 hours, from painting it over, to discussing Magnadoodle drawings of what to paint, to occasional brief snack breaks, to sponging the rest of the background and cleaning up some of the worst messes. But I really didn’t want to give it up, because I wanted Rockstar to taste that heady feeling of accomplishment, even more so for bouncing back from a bad mistake he made………
And so now I have perpetually dark blue fingernails.