8.24.2015

How To Piss Off The Parents Of Small Children In 3 Easy Steps!

I am in possession of one small human person.  This person often does or says adorable and outrageous things, so I can see why others might like to spend time around her and seek to include our family in functions and events.

But.

It’s a big but.  A ghetto but.  A stairmaster-induced volleyball but.  
But, we don’t often attend.  In fact, we rarely bother.  Even if the other guests go out of their way to let us know, frequently, passionately, how much they’d like to see us there.  We remain unmoved.
Let me tell you why.


Reason 1. Ain’t got no respect.

I understand that one to four p.m. is a great time for all y’all.  So great, actually, that you don’t even discuss alternatives.  When a weekend or holiday event goes down, one to four is default.  
It’s also naptime.
We parents of small persons tell you this.  We mention and remind and shout; but that’s naptime!  The response is always the same frustrating refrain.
“They can just skip their nap.”
This next part you don’t hear, because it takes place in the minds of the parents.  Outwardly we may exhibit tight smiles, but inside we’re hissing “You asshole”.  We may also be imagining a swarm of bats getting caught in your hair.

It’s easy to forget why nap time is sacred when you yourself do not have a small person.  You may feel like skipping a nap simply makes the child a little cranky later, and it’s a small price for the parents and child to pay when the alternative, for you, is missing Modern Family.
Naps are a part of a child’s sleep cycle.  It’d be like scheduling Christmas at three a.m.  Would you be a little cranky?  Yes.  Is it more than a “small inconvenience”?  You bet your ass.  Suddenly dragging your saggy butt out of bed for a family event seems ridiculous and unfair.  Could you do it?  Sure.  Would you want to?  There had better be a greased up Ryan Gosling under the tree.

Respect naptime.  Think of it like skipping meals.  You are suggesting that a small child skip a meal.  Sure they could do it, but you’re a dick for demanding that they do it.  You’re selfish for thinking your exceedingly flexible weekend schedule should cater exclusively to your whims, rather than the very real physical needs of a small person.  
“It’s just so hard to get going Saturday mornings, you know?”
No, we don’t know.  We’re preparing bottles or playing tea party at six a.m.  Your desire to sleep til ten does not move us.
“The evening won’t work for me.  I’ve got a fulfilling adult activity to do.”  
Oh.  Well then.  Us parents will just spend our evenings like kids in toy store windows, imagining the rest of you self-actualized people interacting with each other.  We will be having repetitive conversations and picking spaghetti out of the chandelier.


Reason 2. Ain’t Got No Respect

Yes, this is the same as Reason 1.  All the reasons stem from lack of respect.  The first two deal with respect for the children involved.  The third discusses parental respect.
Small people are freaking cute.  We all know this.  For lots of people it’s the only reason they, or anyone, have kids.  If children can’t be hugged, squeezed, tickled and cuddled, then what are they taking up space for?  
This may come as a shock, but these tiny proto-humans have thoughts and desires.  Often these desires don’t involve being manhandled by strangers.

Let’s have a thought experiment.  Pretend that instead of doe-eyed, chubby-limbed human puppies, babies were actually four-hundred-pound NFL linebackers.  Sensitive, skittish NFL linebackers that don’t like loud noises or strange places.  Maybe they’ve had a traumatic brain injury, and only understand every third word you say.  It makes them prone to mood swings, and their unbridled terror of the unknown gets translated into the only language they know; physical action.  
How would you greet this person?  Would you shout their name, chase them when they scream in fear, and tackle them for a hug?  Would you plaster a horrifying, clown-like grimace on your face, and force a kiss on them?  If they put their hands up to stop you, getting teary-eyed and shaking their head no, would you continue approaching them?  Would you respect their very clearly indicated boundaries?  Would you stare at them?  Would they become the event’s object of entertainment, even if they obviously hated the attention?

It baffles me how people don’t understand that they, themselves, are big scary strangers.  The child may be cute, tiny and defenseless, but you are a fully grown adult human primate, capable of killing them easily.  Children are not stupid; they recognize this distinction.  They feel fear, and their fear is not unreasonable.  Adults kill children all the time.  Yes, they do.  Without looking up any statistics or facts, because that is hard, I’m confident in saying that adult humans kill more children than all other animals kill human children.  Meeting you is like meeting a bear; terrifying and life-threatening.  Only the bear knows if he’s harmless.
“But Lil’ Cutesikins knows me!” you protest, “They saw me last Kwanzaa!  I got a high-five then!”
That was last Kwanzaa, and how long would you need to know a person before giving them a hug?  When was the last time you gave one of your in-laws a hug, for that matter?  Most people don’t wantonly distribute hugs.  Hugs are for intimates only.

So next time you meet a child, pretend you are a bear.  Not actually; just in your head. How would a bear need to act for it to gain the child’s trust?  And while you’re at it, pretend the child is an actual person, and respect their boundaries.


Reason 3. Ain’t Got No Respect.

This last one is for all you grandparents out there.  It’s not just you, mind, but you are the primary perpetrators.
We parents usually have rules.  Some are not good rules, some are laxly enforced, and some are plainly stupid.  When you and Lil’ Cutesikins are alone; break away.   Have a gallon of ice cream and watch Ren & Stimpy.  Whatever, man; we’re just glad someone else is babysitting.

But when we are there, when we state a rule to our child directly in front of the two of you, in person, do not break that rule.

An example: Parent tells Child “No cupcake.”  Rule-Breaking-Chode turns to parent and says something nullifying like “Awww, but it’s [insert special event]!” and hands Child a cupcake.
Parent tells Child “Put away your toys before presents.”  Rule-Breaking-Douchecanoe hands Child a gift and says “Just open this little one first.”
Parent tells Child “Eat your tomatoes.”  Rule-Breaking-Dickweed turns to Child, says “I’ll help you eat them.” and eats all the tomatoes.
Parent tells Child “It’s time to go.”  Rule-Breaking-Jerk says “We’ll just have a quick something-or-other first.”

You, gentle rule-breakers, are destroying the entire system.  You are the reason for tantrums in the mall and overturned plates of peas.  We work hard to ensure that “It’s time to go.” means “It’s time to go.”  If you prove the phrase wrong, if you teach our kids that it effectively means nothing, the terrorists win.

8.11.2015

You have been taught to ignore hundreds of thousands of colors

Color books. (Not coloring books.)  I hate them with a passion.  People are confused when I tell them this, citing my being an artist.  

Why I hate Color Books

Red.  Blue.  Green.  Yellow.  Pink.  Maybe purple.  Maybe violet.  Sometimes, if it’s a deluxe version, they’ll have black and white.  All the colors represented with photographs of things.  Red apples, blue robin’s eggs, green leaves.

These things are all the same color, apparently.

Except they aren’t all the same color.  They’re not even close; you can see it with your eyes.  Robin’s eggs are not the same color as blueberries.  Raincoats are not even close to the same color as a duckling.  Don’t get me started on eggplants and violets.

I can't even tell them apart.

It wouldn't be upsetting if we continued to broaden kids' knowledge of colors, but we don't.

“Who decided these five colors are the ones we teach?” I rant.
“Because those are the colors?”  I hear in confused reply.  Really?  Those are all the colors?  What about cyan?  Where’s the puce?  Coral?  Magenta?  Teal?

They all look the same to me.

We don’t ask the height of a building and only accept “tall” or “short”.  We don’t ask  “How many cows?” and only accept values of ten.  This is what we’re doing with colors; eliminating all the in-between, all the variety that actually makes up the majority of colors.
A fellow artist actually replied “Because that’s the color wheel.”  
Hey, guess what.  


The color wheel is made up.  

Fictional.


It’s a quick and dirty guide for people who mix colors, and that’s it.  God did not come down from on high and say that ROY G BIV will now be the only colors we speak of.
“Oo oo!” someone may say, “But ROY G BIV is science!  That proves it!”

No, red orange yellow green blue indigo violet are only gradations in a gradient.  They are arbitrary stopping points.  Kind of like the hours in a day, but a lot less practical.


Here’s what I like to do: throw out all my child’s color books.  Get one of those old sticky-papered photo albums and fill them with cut out pictures from magazines.  Or swipe a fistful of paint chips from the local hardware store.  Better yet, get a hold of a printing shop’s Pantone chart.

Still not all the colors.
Just do something to acknowledge that your child is not crazy for not being able to see the world in more than five colors.  Let them know that we do acknowledge all the in-between, but that colors are so damn subjective, and there are so many of them, we can hardly name them all.


But all of that is secondary to NEVER telling your child that an orangey-red is RED, end of story.  Color is subjective.  When you ask your child “What color are those cows?” and they do not answer the stock “Brown.” just roll with it.  Cows come in lots of colors.  Maybe your child feels that a sienna-golden-tan does not fall under the brown category, but doesn’t know the word for sienna-golden-tan. I don't know the word for sienna-golden-tan.

The correct answer is cow-colored.

Maybe you want to encourage color association, as in:
“This beetle is the same color as our couch!” or “Aren’t those flowers the color of peaches?”


I realize this whole philosophy may seem fruity and impractical.  We teach only a handful of colors to very young children because it is impossible to learn them all, and you have to start somewhere.  Where we go wrong is in not continuing to broaden their color perspectives.



8.07.2015

People Get Weird About Drawing Stuff

It’s an age thing, I’ve noticed.  I’ve taught a lot of art classes; not in schools, but as one-day events, two hour activities at fairs or seminars, and six-week-long community classes.  The ages of my students range from 4 to eighty-seven, with particular concentrations around the very young and very old.  From my experiences I’ve compiled a sociological cross-section of people getting weird about art.  Allow me to combine and paraphrase the trends:

Age 4-7

Do you like to draw?
“YES!  I love to draw!”
What do you like to draw?
“All the stuff.  I draw my sister and our house and Santa Claus and fish and dinosaurs.”
Will you draw an elephant?
YEAH!   Her name is Pickles and she has pretty earrings and is driving a TANK!”
(makes elephant green and magenta; adds rainbow, birds, dinosaur bones, and grandma holding a plate of cookies)

Age 8-9

Do you like to draw?
“Yeah!  Drawing is fun.  I want to be an artist.”
What do you like to draw?
“I draw lots of cows and rainbows and snowmobiles.
Will you draw an elephant?
“Okay.  I’m pretty good at elephants.  My elephant is balancing on a ball at the circus!”
(Includes a veritable narrative in the people attending the circus; people eating popcorn, reading programs, petting a caged lion, swinging from trapezes, etc.)


Age 10-12

Do you like to draw?
“Uh huh.”
What do you like to draw?
“I can draw a dog.  And I know how to do trees too.”
Will you draw an elephant?
“I think so.  Like this, right?”
(draws generic side view of solid gray elephant)

Age 13-16

Do you like to draw?
“I’m not very good.”
What do you like to draw?
“I dunno.  Stuff.  I’m not very good.”
Will you draw an elephant?
I don’t know how to draw that.  Will you show me?”
(draws nothing)

Age 17-55

Do you like to draw?
“No.  All I can do is a stick figure.” (laughs)
What do you like to draw?
“I don’t draw.  I guess I doodle sometimes.  They’re just doodles.”
Will you draw an elephant?
Oh no.  I wouldn’t know where to start.  It would look terrible.”
(draws nothing)

Age 55-87

Do you like to draw?
“Oh yes.  It’s great fun.”
What do you like to draw?
“Flowers, landscapes, my cat.  Recently I started sketching birds.”
Will you draw an elephant?
Sure.  Let’s see how good my memory is.”
(draws generic side view of solid gray elephant)


As you can see, people get weird about art.  What’s great about old people and young people is that neither of them give a shit what you think, and they do exactly what makes them happy.  
Also around year eight the social brainwashing starts to sink in.  All those people telling you that clouds are white and shaped like a bunch of C’s squished together.  That robots were not present at the battle of Troy.  That dogs don’t have antlers; that’s The Man trying to get you down.  Of course I’m using the phrase The Man as shorthand for the manner in which our culture is priming children for reality, not for art.  Allow me to explain through hypotheticals.


You, being a Sensitive Parent, asks your child (let’s say her name is Penelope and she is six years old) to tell you about her latest drawing.  Penelope explains it is a school bus with children on their way to school.  You notice several problematic issues with this scenario: the school bus is green, the children are on top of the bus, there is no driver, the bus appears to have webbed feet.  
Being a Sensitive Parent, you don’t mention this last one, feeling it’s more an issue of skill, but make casual note to Penelope about the other clear errors.  


I would never tell my hypothetical daughter that her drawings are wrong!  you protest, I am a Sensitive Parent!  Art is a free spirit, or something!


Ah, so you wouldn’t say, “A green school bus?” while grinning crazily and bugging out your eyes to imply that such a thing is beyond the scope of reality?  

Or, “What are the kids doing on top of the bus?” or even, “Where is the bus driver?”

These may seem like innocent questions meant to inspire thought in your child, but really they’re corrections.  You’re gently drawing Penelope’s attention to her mistakes.  Your responses could be identical if you swapped the drawing with math problems.
“Two plus two is five?” Sensitive Parent grinned at their silly daughter and bugged out their eyes in mock amazement.  
Or “What is the decimal place doing here?  Where is the remainder?”


The problem here is not Sensitive Parent’s response, it’s that Sensitive Parent is treating their child’s fictional creation as though it was identical to reality.  Ironically, it isn’t even actual reality, it’s Sensitive Parent’s perceived version of reality.  Clouds are not white; they are white, pink, green, purple, red, yellow, gray, black, violet and thousands of other colors that vary so slightly they don’t have names.  Any artist could tell you this, and any child young enough could, too.  But once they’ve been told again and again that clouds are white, suddenly they can’t see the vermilions and golds even when they do look.
The kicker is that some people do notice that snow is electric blue, but if you ask them “What color is snow?” they just trot out the “right” answer like the robot they’ve been programmed to be. 

How much white do you see in this picture?
 Ask a more probing question and you’ll discover they have noticed the discrepancy, but have opted to pretend that what they see doesn’t exist.

While I’m using phrases like “social brainwashing”, which rightly have sinister connotations, I don’t mean to imply that this cultural conditioning around children and art is evil.  It’s just a thing that exists, like the gender binary and athlete’s foot.  I merely wish to call people’s attention to it.  And while we’re on the subject of children and art: