Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Not Quite Perfect

I'm scratching my head over this one. My son is -- let's just be super-blunt -- gifted with the pencil, and by that I mean the drawing pencil. He draws animals, weaponry and soldiers, with incredible detail. Here's a sample of some of his work, which he drew for Tim's birthday. Huh. The quality of the scanned version, or the upload, isn't so wondrous. Sorry.

I've been given this evaluation by many folks outside the family, so I'm not just being Proud Mommy here. And I take no credit; he was probably born with this particular talent, and gets lots of time to indulge himself.

But yesterday -- ah, how do I even describe this? -- he was SO depressed about his work. He came to me declaring that nothing he ever draws is "good enough," and when I expressed my shock, clarified that "it's never on paper the way it is in my head." He also managed to get out that he starts a drawing and then loses focus/gets distracted, and has trouble finishing it. Since the girls were happily flinging the contents of the rice box hither and thither on the patio, I was able to sit down with him and try to give a good listen. Ever have those moments, where your kiddo opens his heart to you and you're telling yourself, "Tread lightly here. Don't mess this one up." He actually came to tears over this one, and when I tried to point out to him that Leonardo da Vinci, whom we've recently studied, had TONS of unfinished ideas, possibly from distraction (ADD?) and possibly from perfectionism. His response? "But MO-OM! He painted the MONA LISA!"

Sigh. I prayed for wisdom on this, because although we eventually moved on, I have a feeling that this issue will resurface. How do you help a child navigate the waters of near-impossible ideals? How to you encourage him to strive, to always "let his reach exceed his grasp," as the poet Langston Hughes put it, but then help him to be content with his best being "good enough?"


Julie said...

Incredible art work!! The detail of the people and the dimension on the rock cliff?..I could NEVER draw that!

MoreThanJustaMom said...

It is awesome work...but you're right, his struggle with perfectionism will resurface. It's interesting to note that this happens to all "greats" in every area of talent. Incredible atheletes, for instance, will remember their losses and rare shortcomings keenly, often much more so than their wins and successes. It's also really difficult to convince truly talented people that what their skill is above and beyond; and in fact, that's probably something that drives them and hones those skills. Encourage Ian with the fact that God gave him his gift; He will shape and direct it in the "perfect" way, even if what comes out is not quite what is in his head and that keeping at doing the best he can makes him better at it each day. Easy to say, I guess; harder to communicate, still harder to believe! As moms, we want to make the way smooth and the burdens light or nonexistent - in reality I think we can lovingly encourage our kids and provide a balance so that hopefully they aren't overwhelmed with those feelings, but some of the adversity, and some of the struggle within, is necessary for their growth. Striving to take it all away, besides being futile, may not even be helpful to them.
It sounds, though, like you did a great job listening and just being there for him. And I hope this long comment isn't just obnoxious...You're an awesome mom, and I love reading your blog!