Tag - painting

Otter Facts
The Paintbrush
Painting Boy

Otter Facts

“Otters are fun creatures to watch and they are highly intelligent.”

—from Top Otter Facts, otter-world.com

My child is in love with otters. Lately Baby Einstein’s Neighborhood Animals has been on high rotation around here. Who knows what it is about the otter that is fascinating him so, but he’s been taking more photos of the TV screen (*note new image count: 1,067):

And he was so adamant that I spell OTTER for him that he spelled it all by himself after I told him that if he did he could have chocolate ice cream.

Last night after I had tucked him and his brother into bed, I heard his little feet scurry across the room. He had pulled a book off the shelf and had torn out the page on Otter Facts. When I went back up to investigate, well…

… he read it to me. He stumbled over “often” and “webbed” and “waterproof.” But he read it to me.

This morning he brought me paper and a crayon and said “Mommy draw otter.” I looked at him and said “No. John draw otter.” And then, even though it was 6:30 a.m., or perhaps because it was 6:30 a.m., I said, “John…Paint otter?”

“Paint?” he said. And so there we sat — did I mention it was 6:30 a.m.? I handed him a brush and paint and water. He caught my gaze, unsure. I told him he could do it and  a split second later he began. He painted.

Fact: Otters are pretty darn cute. And intelligent. Not unlike this child.

The Paintbrush

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?

balloon1The 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?

balloon2It’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.

Painting Boy

Let me tell you a beautiful story about one of my boys.

I’ve often said that I’m certain John is reading. He knows his colors, he knows his animals, he knows the alphabet. How much is memorization, how much is actual reading? With a twin who started reading at two, aren’t the odds in his favor?

When the phone rang last week, the school’s phone number flashing on the caller id, I sighed. Is he sick? Did he fall? What did I forget to pack today? Instead John’s teacher’s voice was breathless. “I had to call,” she said, “I am too excited.”

You know how sometimes if you’re really still, you swear you can hear your heart beat in your chest but then realize you’ve stopped breathing?

“I know we’ve talked about whether John can read or not — he does know a lot of sight words,” she said, pausing. “I just gave him a book that he had never seen before and I said ‘Read book?’ Kal, he read that whole book to me.”

Oh. My. Boy. I am both shocked and nonplussed. I knew it all along, I think. Lately, though, he is fascinated with books in a new way. I catch him flipping pages and muttering words. He sometimes prefers books to his itouch. He even prefers them to lining up blocks on the counter these days. Wow, he is growing up, I think.

He favors books from the Baby Einstein library: My Favorite Colors, Numbers, Poetry. He was enthralled with Baby Van Gogh and that has translated to being enthralled with the real Van Gogh — an obsession going on two years. He has carried around pictures of Starry Starry Night for some time, but now he wants to read books about him and now studies his less famous works: Sunflowers, Boats on the Beach, Irises. He asks me to draw them on index cards then demands tape to hang them on the wall. He jumps in front of them, happy.

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