I had a play date with a mom who lauded the benefit of sports for children: “Life’s all about competition. That is just how the world works!” I nodded my head in agreement but this philosophy of child-rearing just didn’t jive with me. And I continued to contemplate it.
Is the whole world competing with each other?
Is competition the golden key to raising a child into a successful adult?
Besides the obvious Capitalist implications of her statement, it was a total turn off to me. Of course there are real benefits for children participating in organized sports such as exercise, learning cooperation, team work. And every one of these things, not just competition, does benefit a person into adulthood.
I’m not into sports for myself or for my child but that does not mean I’m opposed to them. My daughter has just shown no interest in sports. Of course if she showed interest or asked to play a sport I’d sign her up.
How will she EVER succeed in a competitive world!?
I can hear the chorus of soccer moms now: But she needs exercise! Children need to be active!
It’s hard for sports-minded people to understand that art is a process, not a race.
Now back to the “fact” that the world is based on competition. Well, it’s NOT for artists as well as many other brave souls.
I tried to imagine framing my artistic endeavors within the context of competition. Unlike the myth of the free market, it wouldn’t result in “better” art. To have strong artistic results, you must compete, but only with yourself. When you enter into your studio you do it with the BANG of a starter pistol. You’re off and running, making art as if you are the lone athlete on a track in an empty stadium, with no one to witness your feats. It doesn’t even matter if you run in a circle or even cross the finish line. It’s hard for sports-minded people to understand that art is a process, not a race.
Sure, there is a facet of competition within the world of the professional art. We compete for grants, juried exhibitions, media attention, and (if you believe in the myth of scarcity) gallery representation.
So how do you raise an inherently artistic child into an artist?
Well, you can’t.
Either it’s there or it’s not.
As a child, I was exposed to all types of art and given the supplies but never told how to use them. As a child, I needn’t be encouraged to be creative, I desired it and wanted to do it.
You can’t Tiger Woods or Serena Williams your child into art. Meaning, as an artist myself, I can’t coach my child to be an artist as well. That’s not how it works. It is a very American thing to take the slightest talent your child shows in something and focus everything on that interest and make it the nexus of their entire life. It’s also a very American mentality to think the whole world is competing with you.
You can’t achieve success in a child artist by standing on the sidelines of the classroom art exhibition and yell “YOU CAN DO IT! YOUR CERAMIC ASH TRAY IS THE BEST! CREAM ‘EM!”
If you try to raise an artist, you are bound to fail miserably. Art is a practice, not a game. Creativity, however, can be fostered in the right environment.
What does it take to be an artist? It takes sensitivity to the world. It takes the development of introspection that is the impetus to come to the studio with a desire to express one’s self.
Even if all the stars align and you’ve created the optimal home environment to raise, I mean prune, your little bonsai child into an artist—you might not get an artist. You might raise a stellar abstract thinker, a brilliant chemist, an emotionally intelligent stay-at-home mom, a rebellious Young Republican, or a spatially aware soccer player.
When you read about what is lacking in the American educational system versus what is valued globally in successful citizens the answer is always CREATIVITY.
Creativity cannot be fostered through competition.
Creativity doesn’t oblige rules, it breaks the rules. Creativity is an abstract thought that has been given the time and encouragement to be able to be brought to fruition. Where is the time to daydream in an average child’s day? Where is imagination encouraged in their schedule?
Creativity takes quietude; it takes a breath, a moment in nature.
It takes a mind to be on the verge of boredom in order to dig deep into imagination.
And it needs a parent who takes their hands off the wheel. A parent that stops molding, constructing, fostering and instead allows a child to immerse themselves in what looks, to an outsider, like nothingness.