Buy Your Own Crap at TJMAXX

This post is not about shopping. It is not about thinking TJMAXX is crappy. (Nothing could be father from the truth and why can’t I have one in Japan). It is rather, about how strongly I feel about letting children create their own art, not some clearance end-cap art you need to buy at TJMAXX. Children are born artists; let them create their work and depart at times, from the mold.

You, mothers, go hang somewhere else so they can think and make something that will blow your mind.

I know all we mothers love our kids. And sometimes we wear the proverbial macaroni necklace or grow tired of glitter that is entirely too messy for anywhere other than the beach…or their friend’s house.

But for goodness sake–if we take them to a place that is all about promoting creativity, can we shut our pie traps and let the kids make something interesting and beautiful? Don’t take them to tie-die and be all up on their choice of dyes in those plastic vats. Let them make their forty-five-years-old-too-late-shirt in peace.

If you buy them some rainbow loom kit, let them get funky with color and pattern. They do not need to prove their genetic intelligence by following your recommendation for pattern.

If you spend the morning at one of those paint your pottery places, maybe guide their initial choices (because those too tall for the cabinets mugs get expensive  and they may not need another Little Mermaid figurine or ceramic piggy coin bank). Please, though, do not make it a paint by number, rediculosity. Please let your kid choose their own favorite colors and interpretation of Ariel’s pert shell boobs. Please release your vision of what colors the princess dress must be. Let them explore with color, texture, and design, within the safety of developmentally appropriate materials so they learn to be proud and aware of their own thinking.

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Can you guess who chose the colors and placement of nail polish for her auntie/niece mani?

If you can guess, we went to this kind of pottery painting place while staying with my amazing sister-in-law. My father drove down from NC and wished to spend quality time with me and my kiddos. This was what we chose as our activity du jour. There were two very different scenes in that pottery shop.

Table “Chill Out & Let Them Paint”: This is the place where adults recognise the inherent creativity of their children and take the role of supportive facilitator rather than panty-wadded-stick-to-the-plan-sold-by-princess-marketing. These adults guided safe choices, instructed about paint brushes, the organisation of the shop (i.e. ask the woman working there for the pain you need; help yourself to brushes), and generally supported critical thinking and art.

There were no spills at this rather Bohemian table. No one got hurt. A plaster butterfly was enthusiastically painted to hang in a three year old’s room.

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Table “It-is-strongly-suggested-that-you-adhere-to-the-real-version-of-Sophia-the-First’s outfit”: needs to have a sip of water or a puff from an herbal cigarette. Princess Sophia or Elsa are not going anywhere. Their outfits have already been chosen, yes, in posters and in every bit of marketing toolery from McDonald’s Happy Meal toys to birthday pinatas. It is just fine if your girl envisions something a bit imaginative. It won’t hurt Disney’s feelings or make your daughter look stupid, colorblind, or a product of shoddy-parenting.

Do you suppose the artistically-controlling mother’s daughter was very verbal? Uh-no. The girl didn’t speak more than one little murmur and later, she asked for a juice box. That’s it. No engagement. No admiring colors. Nope, as soon as they walked in, Ms. I’m a Pinterest Mother had already decided for her daughter what piece she would paint, what three colors would be used, and just where it would be placed in the daughter’s room. Nonstop, she said things like, “Paint here. Now here. Do it this way,” before she took the brush and did some “correcting”, herself. For all I know, she may have already blogged their “artsy experience” and told all of her cyber mom friends about how she didn’t do a thing and her daughter is just so good at doing art. Trust me when I say, she operated a bit like a Bob Ross robot, but with all focus on the end product, rather than the crucial, would-have-been process. Scratch Bob Ross. I was more him.

Perhaps I turned this mother off. Perhaps she didn’t even pay attention to me and my language. We each have our own parenting styles, much like our artistic sensibilities. I just desire supportive language to bring up critical thinkers. Kids who choose their own design, who can draw from many strengths, and explain why. Maybe this other mom is totally doing great things! As a teacher, I just long for more of an interchange.

For all you education majors out there, it is the process we are after. This is the key factor and marker for intelligence. But maybe don’t fully go by me; my math SATs bit it. Of course, sitting between one boy sucking up his snot and another boy dealing with his very vocal, very loud and piratey Turrets didn’t help much, either. I should have gotten some major “Gee, we’re so very sorry points”.

I know this post has a different feel. I am experimenting with sarcasm. (I am a little off, I know; I am not funny. I just sound angry. That’s no good). But maybe I am a bit upset. You see, I am a teacher. Child development and promoting good practices for the sake of their growing brains is my passion. I don’t like the possibility that children, really intelligent fabulous children, are being stifled and cultivated to be cute and stay within the lines of their mother’s thinking. Not when art is so amazing. Not when children so naturally produce poetry and learn from their surroundings.

If we can’t let them choose their own shade of green or decide on their own color scheme, how can they possess the confidence and experience to make tougher decisions? We might as well hang our hats on the “controlling nag of a mother” mantle.

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Art has the power to be a fully-loaded vehicle for growing critical thinking skills, oral and written language, problem-solving, flexibility, and creative vision. If you are on-board with this, then the good news is that the pressure is off! All you need to do is recognize your role of supporter. Provide opportunities for creativity, for building and taping and painting and growing. Ask questions like, “Why do you want her hat to be yellow and that fall leaf shade of brown?” Let them come out of their verbal, critical shells as you value their decision making and ask, as a facilitator, which adhesive would be better for the job?” Ask questions that seek to understand their burgeoning minds and help them get to the next level. There is enough pressure in other areas of their world with schoolwork, homework, future pressures of SAT scores and the tensions of an ever-changing world and the freeing and boggling fact that the jobs of the future have not even been realized yet. Let them paint freaking Elsa the way they see fit. It’s really an okay thing, especially when they can dialogue with you about their artistic choices and explain their rationale.

And if all of this is not enough, if you still need Sophia’s dress just so, the way table 2’s mom went on and on and on, then just go buy yourself the figurine online. Better yet, shop those crusty end-caps. Leave your naturally zesty, thoughtful kid out of it.

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One thought on “Buy Your Own Crap at TJMAXX

  1. This is amazing! I agree 1000% with you that kids should be allowed creative freedom (within reason) in order to learn, grow, and discover who they are. My mom would set us up at the dining room table with crafts almost daily. She gave us the basic rules (how to properly use scissors and how not to jab our markers too hard when making dots on our paper) but then she let us at it. We picked every color, every shape, and wrote every story.

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