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Parents are Teachers Too

Updated on August 15, 2015
PAINTDRIPS profile image

Denise has been studying and teaching art and painting for 40 years. She has won numerous prestigious awards for her art and design.

Ballerina

Line drawing
Line drawing | Source

Building big dreams

When I was very young, I used to love each Christmas time when the special airing of the Nutcracker would be shown on TV. My mom and I would watch Baryshnikov and others dance across the screen and I loved it. I began to dream of what it would be like to dance like that. My mother noticed I was somewhat pigeon toed and thought that dance lessons would be just the thing to straighten my posture. I loved the classes so very much. My instructor began talking to me about how far behind I was. At the age of 11 I was already years behind girls who had been dancing since they were 5 years old. I worked very hard, exercised often and soon was ready for being measured for my toe shoes. These are very hard to get. They don’t just sell them to anyone off the streets. The salesman makes a girl exercise at the bar in front of him to see if her ankles are strong enough to support her wait “en toe”. If he feels she is not ready, he refuses to sell them to her.

Have you noticed something about your child that dance or gymnastics could help correct? How about scouting for teaching teamwork and reliability? How about getting your child into music or band? Each of these things helps a child to build confidence and self-esteem.

Self Portrait

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Young Dancers

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Killing a dream

I was with a group from the class, who went to get our toe shoes and one of the 8 of us went away without her shoes. I felt so bad for her. That could have been me. By 12 years old I was en toe. That is when I began to talk seriously about pursuing dance as a career. I talked with my instructor about it and she told me that very few make it to “prima” status in the ballet companies but that if I worked hard I could maybe make it. Unfortunately, my father heard me talking about it one day, and he was alarmed. He was a very practical, hard-working man, and he didn’t want to see me pursue something that would end in failure. These dancing dreams, to him were just that, dreams. He told me that dancers are a dime a dozen and I would starve to death trying for something so whimsical. Since he couldn’t take away my love of dance, he took away my lessons. By 13, I found myself practicing with my toe shoes, all alone in my bedroom. I tried to be persistent but soon lost the drive.

Are you teaching your child that he can or that he can’t? I realize that my dad was saving me from a possible heartache, but sometimes you have to let your children chase a dream. It just might become something special.

Dancers

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New Dreams

I took art in high school, and loved it. It soon became my voice. People would approach me and ask if I had drawn that, and I would smile and nod. They asked if I was a real artist, and I would smile and nod. What a wonderful voice I found. It attracted attention and spoke all I wanted to say for me. I began to dream big dreams again of becoming a great artist that people came from all over the world to see. I wanted to paint masterpieces that sold for millions; illustrate books that encouraged children to learn to read more. It wasn’t long before my Dad heard me dreaming again and was again alarmed. Artists don’t make any real money until they die, he told me. He was sure again, I was going to starve to death. The compromise we struck was he would pay for college if I took courses that could help me get a job. Secretarial courses, specifically. And I could take an occasional art class too. However, he noticed that I was very in love with the art. So once again he did what he could to discourage me from this art thing. He stopped paying for college. I managed to get my two-year degree later but he didn’t even come to the graduation.


To Dance To Dream

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Poor Choices

How do you handle your children’s poor choices? I don’t know if there are any right answers. I tried all these and if one worked it was dumb luck.

See results

Career Choices

I understand what he was trying to do for me. It is true that artists don’t really make any serious money. You have to be seriously deranged or in love with art to pursue it as a career (maybe a little of both). But artists don’t go into art for the money; they go into art because they are possessed by the love of the craft and the drive to do art at any cost (even eating regularly). Dad was trying to prepare me for a harsh world that doesn’t care if you are gifted or talented. He wanted me to be self-sufficient. I really appreciate that about him now. Back then I felt unloved, unworthy, betrayed, and confused for having a passion for something he didn’t approve of.

As parents, I think the more important thing would be to believe in your children and not belittle their dreams. There is a difference in gently directing a career choice and completely dashing dreams.

The drawings of the dancers are by me; proof that you can take the kid out of dance, but you can’t take the dance out of the kid.

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Flamingo Dancer

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Famous Artists

There are many famous artists throughout history whose parents felt the same way. Michelangelo’s father wanted him to pursue a career that would replenish the family fortune but couldn’t dissuade him from art, which he thought would ruin them financially. John James Audubon’s father wanted him to join the military and become an officer just as he had done, but the boy couldn’t pass the exams. He kept spending his time out in the forest drawing the birds. Beatrix Potter’s parents wanted her to get married and take her place in upper middle class society, but she spent all her time in her room drawing and illustrating rabbit stories. I suppose that puts me in among very good company.

Bunny

Watercolor on wrinkled paper.
Watercolor on wrinkled paper. | Source

Those who can't, Teach

After a while I found I could teach art to both children and adults, even without a college degree or teaching credential. I wanted to encourage children to try, that creativity came from within and that they could do anything they tried hard enough. Plus, art has the added benefit of having no wrong answers. It’s not like math or science. Even if you make only one mark on the paper, it is still art. So my mantra became “never tell them they can’t do it”. Soon people began calling me “the encourager” everywhere I went. I figure if you work hard enough, you can accomplish anything so why not. I always try to find the good in my student’s work and accentuate that. I may point out one thing that could be improved on, but I don’t belabor the issue. Besides success in art is less about talent and more about being in the right place at the right time. Because of my father, there are several of my former students pursuing a career in art. One young lady lives in New York City designing for a shoe manufacturing company. Another dear student has become a fashion designer creating theatrical costumes for a drama troupe. One of my three daughters is not working for a video gaming company as a character designer.

My best advice it to become an encourager. It is sort of that old adage, that you catch more flies with honey. A sour disposition and constant nagging that your child will starve to death will only get a sour return and disappointment. I have to say my dad turned me into an encourager because I never wanted another person to feel their limitations but instead, their possibilities.

4 Ways Parents Teach Kids that Consent Doesn't Matter

Reading

I know I have a lot to offer the art community. I may not be the next Dr. Seuss or Maurice Sendak, but I do know that I want to share my talent with the world. I want to encourage children to read and fall in love with literature the way my teachers and my mother made me fall in love with it. I want to use art to entice children to read. I think it can happen.

My mother used to read to us and instilled in us a love of literature. Books are wonderful things filled with lives and loves of people who have gone before us. Because of that, I read aloud to my children, even through high school. We loved to sit around the fire and listen to stories about far away places. My son now writes fantasy books for young boys. That is an amazing accomplishment. If I encouraged even a little of that passion through reading a few books aloud, I feel proud.

Save someone's life today.

I have loved working with the senior citizens in my community. It started as simple watercolor classes but turned into art therapy. There is something very calming about petting the paper with paint, like petting a puppy. I have used some of the same lessons as I used with the children. Not that seniors are childish, but they have some of the same skill levels, but they are not in such a rush to finish. Seniors like to take their time and enjoy the process. There have been studies that show that the painting process helps lower the blood pressure, and improves eye-to-hand coordination. It has the added benefit of giving the elderly something to look forward to and builds their self-esteem because they have art to take home afterwards.

One family member of a lady who paints with me, told me that I had saved her mother’s life. She explained that her mother was just sitting in her room with nothing to look forward to but what was on the television. They were afraid there would soon be another funeral if they didn’t get her out to meet people and find something to do. Now she won’t let anything get in the way of her painting time. I was humbled and touched by her kind remarks. Who knew art could do all that? I’m sure my Dad didn’t know art could do that.

My books

I have begun writing and illustrating books; some craft books, some art history books, coloring books, and children's stories. I wouldn't say I'm great but I am happy with who I am and happy to be doing what I love. Isn't that what life is all about?

Love of Reading

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Looking to the future

The future of literature is going more and more toward digital venues. But that doesn’t change the fact that books will always need interior illustrations and cover illustrators, even digital ones. Illustrators just need to be flexible and adaptable to the digital market, keeping a knowledge of traditional drawing skills and methods. I think Dad would be impressed.

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Encouraging comments

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    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      2 years ago from Fresno CA

      I so understand about being held back from your dreams. I'm so glad for you that you are pursuing what you love. You are very good at it and could teach others. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • CorneliaMladenova profile image

      Korneliya Yonkova 

      2 years ago from Cork, Ireland

      Thank you very much for this hub, Denise and thank you for being encourager. People like you give great help to the others. My art teacher Mr Salabashev also encouraged me a long time ago and despite I was stopped from my mother from pursuing art career, now my dream came true and I started to create design. :)

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      Thank you everyone for visiting my hub and commenting.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      Denise, Thank you for the kind words. I think it's a real shame that he didn't live to see my turn into something productive and useful too.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 

      3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      It is interesting how the experiences of our lives affect us in profound ways! You have a gift for art, and these drawings of dancers are amazing! It is too bad that your father did not share your passion and love for dance. Yes, he was trying to be protective, as all parents do, but he missed the boat when it comes to getting you into a profession. Things are very different now. Our children have options that we never dreamed of when we were young. It is wonderful that you have turned what could have been a real downer into something productive and useful!

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      gmwilliams, thank you for that affirmation. I think so too. Although I wouldn't call my father abusive, he did try to talk "sense" into me to pursue a REAL job. I'm glad I never obeyed. It made me an outcast in the family and somewhat of a black sheep but I think I would much rather that than the years of agony working at something I was not suited to. I tried that for a couple years. I was an office assistant, typing and filing. The funny thing is that when my bosses found out I could draw, they put me to work designing their brochures. I recently found out that 30 years later they are still using/publishing my brochure designs. I got $1.75 an hour and they got an absolute STEAL.

    • Pratisha profile image

      Pratisha 

      3 years ago from Ahmedabad

      excellent article. The onus lies on the parent to spot the child's interest, her passion, identify and then guide. Confident children are raised just this way. Agree totally.

    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 

      3 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      This is an excellent hub and should be required reading for all parents. There are enlightened parents which are in the minority who encourage their children's dreams no matter how outlandish because they know that their children can succeed despite the particular societal paradigm. There are parents who are soul destroyers who kill their children's dreams because they deem their children's goals/dreams to be "impractical". These are the parents who are security conscious, they want their children to get that secure job although the job is not suited to the child. That is why so many people are miserable in their jobs. They had goals and dreams and they were told to "grow up", "be practical", and "to get a 'real' job" by their parents to the latter's utter dismay. When one is not fulfilled in his/her job and his/her purpose, atrophy and/or angst sets in which can led to psychological, even physical illness. Parents must be aware that children have talents, even talents which differ from the parents. However, mature and enlightened parents encourage and nurture their children's talents. A famous celebrity indicated that the worst thing a parent could do is to tell a talented/creative child to get a "real" job. That to me is tantamount to emotional abuse.

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