Oh, John. After years of making Mommy spell words for you, of pulling my hand and insisting that I draw pictures for you (in crayon, in pencil, on paper, on the computer, once in the sand), after an eternity of my being Chief Scribe — now you’re ready to do it yourself?
The watercolor paints are new — we have not cracked them open since Christmas — so when you brought them to me with a paintbrush and said “Open Blue?” I took in the situation and your earnest face and thought, Well? Let’s give it a shot.
Of course I hoped that you would paint yourself but I wasn’t optimistic. I mean there’s precedent and it usually ends up being me. But still, I got a cup of water and showed you the basics: dip brush
in water, mix brush in color, paint on paper. I waited for the inevitable “Mommy paint?” but instead you pushed me away and started coloring in a hot air balloon. Like I was in your way! (I was, I hovered.)
How did I not figure it out sooner?
It’s the medium. It’s the amount of strength required of your little hands, of your fingers. Painting is fluid and smooth. Your body does not protest or resist or get in your way (like with the crayon or the pencil or even the marker). Painting allows you to execute one smooth movement after another.
It’s not (as I sometimes wondered) the repetitive nature of having us draw picture after picture for you. It’s that YOU want to be able to draw yourself. And we’re as close as you’re able to get.
And then it dawns on me that this must be what it’s like when you try to talk. I see how you struggle to find words when it’s so plain that you want to communicate something — your body doesn’t have a paintbrush to help it find expression. And just like when you make Mommy draw for you (i.e., be your hands), you stop in your tracks and cry. Or flap with frustration. I see how frustrating it must be.
What if the answer to both is… painting? So I’ve decided: No more crayons or markers. We are filling this house with paint and easels and smocks. Let’s see what you’re trying to say, baby.