RLP's Personal Blog

Drawing Butterflies With K

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(copy of a facebook post sufficiently long I wanted to save a copy outside of facebook)

So I am breaking my photo process to talk, extensively, about this one. These are pictures by me and K.

What happened was that K wanted to draw a butterfly, and I asked her to start with an oval, which she refused to do. So I drew her an oval as the body, and I can’t remember how it went but she asked me to draw the whole thing (that’s the one on the left), and then I asked her to trace over the body oval and she got really upset.

She was worried because she wasn’t going to do it perfectly; I believe her words were something like “I’ll do it wrong”, or something? I managed to talk her into starting it, and she did about a quarter, noticed that she hadn’t traced the line perfectly, and kind of freaked out. Not in a screaming way, just in a calm-ish “I’m really upset about this” sort of way.

This was pretty shocking to me. First of all, K isn’t normally afraid of anything, including things she probably really should be. Secondly, I had thought of “I refuse to do art because I’m a perfectionist/too self-critical” as being a subtle neurosis, too complicated for a 4 year old (which clearly I was incorrect about). Thirdly, I don’t know that anyone has ever criticized any creative endevour of hers, like, ever, so where the hell did this come from?

It actually was pretty upsetting to me, because I have a bit of an issue with kids who are self-critical like that; I tend to think of it as being the parents’ fault for being overly critical and the kid internalizing it, so a part of me wanted to just go freak out about how I broke my kid, but I wanted to do as well with her in this situation as I could, so I bottled that up and get back to her.

There followed a long time (15+ minutes?) of me talking to her about good vs. perfect (as best I could in 4 year old language) and reassuring her that I loved anything she tried to do with the butterfly and could she please finish it because I really wanted to see it.

I finally managed to get her, in pieces, to do the whole thing (as you can see).

An interesting thing to note here is that this sort of situation would have been non-recoverable in the short term with F; once F is freaking out, we’re kind of done and you have to come back to it, like, next week; I was really impressed by K’s ability to sit with the situation for an extended time like that.

Ah, important thing I didn’t mention earlier: the original impetus/goal was to make a card for F. She had an envolope she’d decorated, and this was to go in the envelope.

So anyways we finished it, and we showed it RA for praise, and then K decided that it was terrible (I can’t remember her exact words there) and started crushing it into a tiny ball in her fist. She kept saying that she wanted to tear it into tiny little pieces, which I found pretty distressing.

I took it from her, forcefully (nothing serious, I just held her hand and extracted it) and unballed it. I can’t remember how, F ended up seeing it. F brought it over to K and told K (without any prompting from anybody, I think?) how pretty it was.

This broke the spell, for whatever reason, and she wanted to make another picture to put in the envelope for F (I can’t remember if I suggested it or she did).

She asked me to draw a butterfly for the card, and I said no, what I would do is draw a part of it, but only if she traced each part I drew, because I loved her art and wanted to see it and etc. She (eventually) agreed.

There was still a bunch of self-attack every time she missed my line, especially with the big miss on the upper-right wing segment (which was the second part we did), but each time I was able to talk her down (same as before: good enough is more important than perfect, I think it’s great, you’re working so hard, etc) and each time was less powerful than the last, until by the end she seemed to be basically over the whole thing.

The previous day, RA had worked with both girls on drawing inside the lines, just cuz that’s something one shuold learn how to do some day, sort of a school-like thing, and K had basically ignored her, which is where we get to the interesting part.

After we’d done all the other pieces, she filled in the body herself, entirely without prompting or suggestion from anyone. To my knowledge, this is the first time she’s colored inside any lines ever. By this time she seemed entirely happy and engrossed.

Then we gave the card to F, who was pleased, and all was basically right with the world, leaving me to wonder what the hell that bizarre bullet I’d just dodged (if, indeed, I have; I suppose only time will tell).