Time is fleeting. I’m not sure why I’ve been preoccupied with this thought lately; maybe it’s the change of seasons or the holidays, or my dad retiring in a few days, or one of my best friends giving birth to a beautiful baby girl. Seems like every December I unpack holiday decorations that were just put away yesterday, even though I know for a fact I took them down last February!
Kids grow up so quickly! In just a few short months, we’ve watched kids lose countless baby teeth, celebrate birthdays, and announce they now prefer to be called Meredith, not Minnie. At a holiday workshop last week, we were amused at the excitement and exuberance with which the kids composed and colorfully adorned heartfelt letters to Santa. One little boy’s letter and envelope were so weighed down with glue and glitter and jewels that even he questioned how it was going to make it to the North Pole, anxiously asking, “How are we ever going to get this to Santa?” At times like this, you wish you could bottle up their innocence and wonder, and save it for when they might need a little bit of it later.
It doesn’t help that they lead such busy lives, these little ones! They have school and homework, attend parties, play soccer, learn karate and dance and cheer leading and music and art. At small hands big art, we want children to be able to engage in an open-ended creative process that will hopefully instill in them a fearless life-long sense of wonder, and help them grow into young adults with unique and creative ideas, becoming “outside-the-box” critical thinkers and problem-solvers.
When they are with us in the studio creating – especially the younger ones – they seem to step outside of their busy day-to-day lives and live completely in the moment, willing to trust and follow their instincts, so eager to create something new! In contrast, older children often struggle to jump start their imaginations, frequently question or doubt their ideas, ask for reassurance, and are afraid to try something different for fear of making a mistake. There is an often quoted passage from The Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson, a book about the author’s outdoor adventures with her young grandnephew:
A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.
We have a little five year old girl in class who confidently answers “Lel-low” when we ask what the brightest color of the rainbow is. Brittany and I just glance at each other and smile. I suppose we have a professional obligation to correct her but we haven’t had the heart, knowing that one day all-too-soon she will naturally correct the mispronunciation on her own. This must be some small subliminal effort on our part to slow down the inevitable passage of time and loss of innocence. I find myself quizzing her every now and then, asking her what color a banana is, always relieved when I hear it hasn’t happened yet.