Musings: What Children Know That Grown-ups Could Learn From

I hope that you can allow me a bit of a departure. To preface this, you should know the following.

Here is how I think I spend my time:
How I Think I Spend My Time

Here is how I actually spend my time:
How I Actually Spend My Time

So there are a couple of things that are very important in my life: jewelry and my children. I hope to tie this all together by the end, so bear with me.

Things Children Know

When offspring starts out as those extra-terrestrial-like newborns, it is pretty sobering what they DON’T know, and how vulnerable they are. But then you start to see what they are born knowing–stuff programmed into their DNA. These are the things I wish I could prevent them from UN-learning as they get older:

Kids don’t need to go to yoga to learn how to breathe.

Children know how to listen–and laugh–with their whole bodies.

Sketchbook Picture

I find surprises from my kids in my sketchbook, like this picture by my 6 year old. I turn a page, and find these treasures, often when I’m traveling and need a little fix.

Kids know that it’s ok not to always make sense. My kids sang before they could talk in sentences. One of them used plastic dinosaurs and staged elaborate operas with Triceratops and T Rex as the principals. They sang in uninterrupted continuous stanzas, stringing words together like pearls on the melody they made up in their head. It didn’t matter to anyone that the songs didn’t make sense. It was beautiful.

Children are natural creators of art–it’s effortless and essential. I feel like my job is to make sure they have the materials–and space–available so that they can create when they want. The operative word is try: it’s really challenging not to be too busy to help them get out the paints, or set up a still life in the kitchen, without verbalizing the automatic track in my head, a refrain that says “Not now, because it’s not convenient for ME.”

Rainier Painting

A recent painting of Mt. Rainier by my 9 year old.

Kids don’t know that rules exist until we tell them. Some are critical for their survival: it’s what keeps them safe. But, let’s face it: some are just arbitrary and not helpful.

So for kids, it’s all Wow and Wonder and Why Not? The No’s, Don’ts and Can’ts come from us, like a wall.

I’m reminded of an anecdote from Randy Pausch, from his Last Lecture, where he thanks his parents for letting him paint his bedroom walls as a child (Randy died in 2008 from pancreatic cancer, he delivered this lecture just after a terminal diagnosis). What did he draw on his walls? Among other things, mathematical equations that foreshadowed his influential career in computer science. So not exactly a waste of space. Or paint.

So what does this have to do with jewelry? I’ve been thinking about this lately. Whatever the actual percentage of time may be that I study jewelry and the artists who make it, I realize that I’m surrounded by beauty and creativity. Imagined by people who have gotten past the “we can’t make this, who is going to buy it?” or “don’t think about quitting your day job, you need the paycheck.”

It occurs to me that we’re raising the next generation of artists, designers, jewelry makers, writers, and musicians. The creative, magical thinkers that are going to change the world.

So I’m going to try hard and not be too busy to hand them a marker (or paint brush, or keyboard, or pencil, or journal). And then get out of their way.

Jewelry Sketch

A jewelry pendant design sketch by my 6 year old. I wonder if it detaches from the Riviere necklace. I’ll ask her.

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