My son just presented his final project to showcase his skills (Bridge Fine Goods/ Nocturnal Workshop) at the 2015 Fashion Show at the River Rock Theatre in Richmond, B.C. This is the culminating requirement for his degree in fashion design at Kwantlin Polytechnic University. His line is impressive, even beyond the expectations of his very proud mother. The questions I always get: “Was he always an artsy kid?”
What people are actually asking is…Was he a quietly creative, artistic child who spent hours drawing and sewing and traveling with the band. “Well, no.” Although I pushed the card with piano lessons, then school band and finally his choice of guitar, he was not a fan of practicing. Once he was beyond middle school, there were a myriad of other things to fight about so I let them go. He didn’t take great pride in his art portfolio or any of his academic work at school. He did as little as he could and then achieved the required grades for university entrance by studying for high stakes final exams with considerable encouragement (oh, yeah…big pressure) from parents and teachers.
He was a rough and tumble little guy with a well developed vocabulary who wanted to play. As a toddler he would run and jump off the end of the couch and expect you to catch him. He did trials riding and jumped off rocks and cars and won the Jr. Test of Metal in Squamish. He would build ramps in the yard until they were deemed unsafe by his parents. Then they moved into Mundy Park so we could not easily witness and condemn their bike parks. I finally broke down and bought him a cell phone that got reception in the middle of the park so he could dial 911 if necessary. He morphed into downhill riding at Whistler and all I could do was insist on full body armour for him and his father. YouTubes of him snowboarding stopped my heart. Shovels disappeared from the shed and were left on the mountain during ramp building expeditions. He swam with the Sharks and played soccer but preferred individual sports.
Now if you were to ask if he was creative, the answer is yes. He loved drawing, painting, clay, and drama programs at Place des Arts in Mallairdville and community rec programs. When we traveled, he would sit down with his sister and draw Michelangelo’s David in Florence or the leaning tower in Pisa. He liked symphony presentations at the Burnaby Arts Centre and Disney on Ice. He loved earning the project badges for Cubs and Scouts and Wednesday became his cooking night. He loved mandatory explorations classes (cooking, sewing, woodwork) when he got to middle school. In sewing classes with Mrs. Shanty Toolsie-Warsnup, she awarded him the coveted “Lead Foot Award’ and he would “sew a straight line for hire” until he got caught. Routine visits to see family in California, included outlet shopping. If his designer wear restricted his movement when biking, he’d pick apart the seams and resew it so it was more comfortable. He loved thinking through the logistics of woodwork and got lots of support for his projects. Construction after secondary school wasn’t unanticipated. Taking his sewing machine when visiting his aunt in Rome was unanticipated. So was the decision to study fashion design in Milan.
In our culture, it seems like we are so focused on looking for talent and feeding it. “Being the best” or “A Winner” has become a mantra for even very young children. Some of the best parenting advise I got when my kids were in school was from Chris Kelly, superintendent of VSB at the time. I was bemoaning the cost of all the trips we were funding for our daughter: Soccer in Vegas; School Leadership in Ottawa; Cheer in Florida. He laughed and said, “You’ll never regret the opportunities you give your kids in helping them to figure out who they are going to be.” I think that is the point. It’s about the WHO you are going to be, not the WHAT. As a school system and society in general, our goal needs should be to give our children opportunities in and out of school to open up the possibilities for who they will become. That doesn’t mean just the jobs they will pursue, but the paths that will engender relationships and interests. Broad exposure rather than limited opportunity allows for the possibilities to be endless…and in some cases far beyond what we had ever imagined 🙂