For years my central question as an artist has been: “What is enough?” When is whatever I’m working on in my studio complete? And a lifetime of wondering: “Am I enough?” The latter has softened a lot over the years.
What are we telling our children through our daily interactions with them? I’ve always thought the “best” parents question themselves. Not incessantly or cruelly, but in an everyday, quality of life way. Are we pushing them to be something they’re not, or to be the “best they can be” for them, or for us? Are we really listening to them, or are we always trying to get them to listen to us?
A dear friend of mine says to his kids: “Perfect is boring!” What does perfect mean anyway? I recently listened to NPR’s Terry Gross interview Louie C.K. He had just been confronted with the problem of what to say to his daughter when it was revealed that she had smoked pot. He ended up saying: “I love you and I’m here for you. That’s all I’ve got.”
After my daughter Sara was born in 1982, I began asking people what they felt was the worst thing their parents did to them when they were children. Most people said they were left with a nagging, and in some cases, debilitating sense of being a disappointment. Never quite measuring up. One of the best pieces of advice I got when Sara was little was to listen to her. That didn’t mean doing whatever she wanted. Often it simply meant listening without judgment. Listening and waiting. What was behind the words? Was she hungry, tired or confused about something?
One Halloween when Sara was about eight, a friend of hers talked her into dressing as Honey Bunny, girlfriend to Bugs Bunny. Her friend was going as Bugs and provided both costumes. Sara was used to choosing her own costume and didn’t want to go as this character. She was the kind of kid who wanted to please her friends. We had just gotten ready to go to the local park for a kid’s parade, when she suddenly started crying. It was obvious she was really angry and didn’t know what to do about it. My best thinking at the time was to ask her if she wanted to smash one of our pumpkins. Yes!!! And that did the trick! We ended up laughing so hard. Neither of us remember now if we ended up going to the park after that, sorry to say. I’ve always been more interested in seizing the moment and dealing with the feelings then and there. Acknowledging the hurt, the anger, or whatever comes up.