For three years now, I’ve opened her school bag to see if I can gleam from the contents what her day was like. My powers of deduction aren’t exactly at a Sherlock level, but I use each clue to tease more conversation from her. My goal is to add some words beyond the script of, “you played with your friends at school.”
Some days I get some real evidence: her artwork. I’ll ask her if she was learning about snowmen or flowers, or Hello Kitty (because Mr. Holmes himself would deduce that she was education at the Hello Kitty Centre for Learning and Cute Fun!). But for years she didn’t care. She is about the process, not the end result. Art was done. Finished.
For so long, I’ve praised her art, asked her questions about it, showed it to others. But something was always missing. She didn’t care. She didn’t care if we thought it was good or bad. The only way we knew she ever thought it was good or bad was that she was a mistress of censorship, and much of her work was scribbled out as soon as it was completed.
That thing that Cubby seemed to be born with- a pride in his efforts- just seemed to be missing in her. And while parenting Pudding is a welcome relief from the “look at me, look at me” antics of her brother, I wondered if she would ever feel that pride. Pride in herself, pride in what she could do.
It was important to me that she felt it. So even if my words were never heeded, I would take that artwork from her bag and tell how good it was. I couldn’t make her care about her achievements, but she would always hear that we did. Let her hear us singing her praises even if she never wanted to join in our melody.
And then things changed.
Maybe it was being in a classroom with other little people who loved their work and showing it off. Maybe she knew that to compete with a sibling who wants all of our attention, she’d better seek some of it. Maybe all our words sank in. Maybe it was just time.
First she started to show me her work. Then she let me add it to her wall.
And then I guess I missed some one day, and I found that her art collection on her bedroom wall had grown by two pieces. They were fixed so neatly to the wall, that I at first assumed her daddy had added to the gallery. Only I found the box of adhesive on the floor, and I know he would have put that out of reach of the kids. I checked, but it wasn’t him.
When I asked, Pudding confirmed that she’d put her pictures on the wall. I could elicit no further details, but you don’t have to live on Baker Street to deduce that she put it there because she liked what she’d done. She placed it there with care because it is important to her. Her art matters to the most important critic of all.