Love (and Crayons) in Abundance

One of the things that caused me to fall in love with my house before it was “my” house was the art room. The future art room, I should say. When I visited the house with my realtor, it had a formal dining room – gold carpet, wallpaper over paneling, ornate chandelier. But in my mind, I could see the room’s potential.

With my home repair guru (aka Dad) by my side, we ripped out the carpet, pulled down the wallpaper, and painted the paneling a cheery combination of white and yellow. New windows, a bright overhead light fixture, grey floor tile, a long table, and new shelving units completed the transformation. The walls are covered in children’s artwork; the shelves are stocked with paint and crayons and stickers and board games. The art room is easily my favorite room in the house.

It is important to me that my kids have access to art. I want them to be able to express themselves and to lavishly pour out the creativity that I believe is inherent in all children. What’s the Picasso quote? “Every child is an artist; the problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” Preach, Pablo.

As a parent, I sometimes struggle to fully embrace that lavish self-expression. I have a tendency to get a little miserly about art supplies. My kids can blow through a ream of construction paper like a horde of adorable termites. My four-year-old will cheerfully color a single circle on the page then move on to the next…and the next…and the next. She was painting before dinner last night and in the twenty minutes it took me to fix macaroni and cheese, she’d covered fifteen pieces of paper in colorful abstract lines. Then she cut them all into tiny pieces with frilly-cut scissors. Apparently she embraces “process” over “product.”

I’ve had to train myself not to inhibit my kids’ use of materials. Paper is there to be colored on. Markers run out. Paint gets used up. Crayons break. Stores of glitter and pom-poms and feathers are depleted. That’s the whole point!

It’s funny where this hoarder mentality crops up in parenting. For me, it also reared its head the night before the birth of my second child. I tucked my daughter into bed on the eve of my scheduled induction and promptly had a total meltdown. It had – finally – fully dawned on me that I was going to be the mother of not one, but two children. There was going to be a second tiny person in my life, demanding my attention and allegiance and affection. My beloved daughter would no longer be the sole center of my universe.

I was utterly undone by this realization. What if I couldn’t love my son as much as I loved my daughter? What if I loved him more? What if she felt neglected and replaced? What if he grew up knowing, feeling, sensing that I had loved her first and therefore, maybe, best? My husband – the second of five children – did his best to be supportive in the face of his wife’s sudden, inexplicable decent into madness, but couldn’t really relate to my fears.

It turns out that the hormones accompanying the final days of pregnancy can really mess with your mind. Go figure. The instant my son was born, I learned the truth, of course. Love is infinite. You can’t max it out no matter how abundantly you bestow it. My heart immediately grew to encompass every perfect inch of him – then expanded again two years later when my third baby arrived.

Unlike parental love, a jar of glitter is not infinite, but you should use it all anyways. Art and love both make the world more beautiful so it’s pretty much impossible to have too much of either.

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