The meaning of love

Every moment is a brushstroke in the raising of a child.

Every moment is a brushstroke in the raising of a child.

I have written before on how having children has historically been an impediment to women artists. Although we live in a world where child-rearing is less gender-specific than ever before, this is still true.

Chrissy Spoor Pahucki is an exception, and someone I really admire. She takes her three kids in turns to plein air events with her. They paint alongside her and sometimes even enter the events.

Happy child rollerblading, Pittsfield, MA.

Happy child rollerblading, Pittsfield, MA.

I wish I’d known her before I had kids, because she’s a great role model. I was a terrible art teacher to my older two. I started pushing them far too young. I was so overbearing that they stopped drawing. That discouraged me from teaching anything to my younger two, who are far more artistically expressive. It doesn’t mean the older two stopped being creative; they’ve just channeled it into other pursuits.

Miraculous.

Miraculous.

I’m thinking of this today because my second grandchild entered this world on Saturday evening. Her brother Jake is only 11 months old, so I remember his newborn character very clearly. They have the same hair and coloring, their features are very similar, and they have the same voice tone. But it is already apparent that they have different characters. In fact, my daughter tells me this was clear even before Grace was born.

There is undeniably a measure of hard-wired personality built into every newborn, but it doesn’t develop in a vacuum. It takes years of work from parents. I’m here in Massachusetts to stay with Jake while his mom recovers from her c-section, and I am reminded anew just how difficult it is.

Sidewalk chalk by a happy kid, at Pittsfield (MA) Commons.

Sidewalk chalk by a happy kid, at Pittsfield (MA) Commons.

When you are raising your own children, you work so hard it’s a blur. There’s very little time for reflection. You don’t realize that every interaction with them is a brushstroke in the portrait of a person (made more difficult because the canvas keeps wiggling). You’re pretty much focused on the drudgery of picking dried cereal out of the carpet. It’s only when it’s done that you can see how all those moments flowed together to shape your child’s character, for good or ill.

Meanwhile, they’ve also shaped you. I used to worry that the thousands of hours I spent doing mom stuff were hours that I couldn’t spend finessing my skin tones or the rim lights on pottery. Now I realize that I don’t, in fact, care a hoot about either, that it’s something far more ineffable that I’m trying to express. Being a parent was excellent training for the true fundamentals of my painting, because it taught me patience, perseverance, wonder at God’s creation, how to work from a spirit of joy, and the meaning of love.

Carol Douglas

About Carol Douglas

Carol L. Douglas is a painter who lives, works and teaches in Rockport, ME. Her annual workshop will again be held on the Schoodic Peninsula in beautiful Acadia National Park, from August 6-11, 2017. Visit www.watch-me-paint.com/ for more information.