Thursday, September 11, 2008

Tricky Momma

Somehow, Willow has become obsessed with My Little Pony, without any actual exposure to the cartoon. Well...I do have a couple of old-school My Little Pony figures from my own childhood that the girls play with, but we all refer to these as "baby horses." I dunno--do the ponies whisper into their brains, "We are really called My Little Pony. Ask your mommy to let you watch our cartoon"? At school, the kids spend half the day running around on the playground--do they intersperse soccer and animal doctor and who can slide down the slide the fastest with "Hey, did you catch yesterday's My Little Pony? Awesome!" Matt thinks that one evening at the video store, probably on the way to pick up for the thousandth time (for me...ahem), Willow might have caught sight of a DVD cover of the cartoon, because she talked for a while about wanting "the flying rainbow pony movie"--was she somehow exposed to My Little Pony radiation there that has affected her on a cellular level?

Whatever the societal ills that have led us to this juncture, Willow woke up this morning wanting to draw "a My Little Pony with wings." Okay... I sit her down with paper and markers, she draws for about a second, then scribbles in fury all over her page and freaks out in frustration because her picture doesn't look like the picture in her head. I'm not exactly happy with this, because I'm VERY picky about the children's art education (I'm a complete convert to the manifesto--I think it's exactly right in almost every way, and it really changed my parenting for the better), and her unhappiness with her own product makes me wonder if she's been too exposed lately to adult versions of drawing, or adult models of how to create a particular art product (I'm constantly on the verge of battle with the little old lady who does the post-storytime "craft project" at the public library--do NOT get me started on the evils of adult-mediated procedural children's "craft projects").

So I sit down with Will and attempt to talk her through what she wants to create--"Okay, start with a head--good. Now draw a body attached to the head." That lasts for maybe two seconds, with hysterical tears to follow. We're moving, now, progressively down my levels of preferences for how I'd like her to do her art.

First preference: the child creates her own art.

Second preference: an adult talks the child through the creation of the art she wants, while keeping the art materials, and thus the control, entirely in the child's hands.

Third preference: the adult provides the child with a model to copy to create the particular image she desires. So we go together to the Internet and do a Google image search for "My Little Pony," printing off a colorful picture of a candy-bright, chunky-hoofed horse-like critter for Willow to copy. This actually gets her through the creation of one entire picture, when then, unfortunately, is scribbled over and torn up and thrown on the floor in a screaming fury that then requires the said four-year-old to sit in my lap, weeping, for nearly ten minutes. Clearly, we're down to the last resort here.

Fourth preference: I print off some coloring pages from the Internet. My derision for coloring books is manifold--there is little scope for imagination in working with someone else's version of a scene, it models "how to do" a piece of art that my kids tend to want to imitate instead of doing their own far more creative visions, its filling-in-the-blanks doesn't reinforce the kind of manual arts skills I think they should be practicing, etc. However, on the plus side, it finally gives Willow an acceptable (to her) My Little Pony picture to immerse herself in, and it's an acceptable way, at least, for her to follow her interest in My Little Pony--it's important to me that she be allowed to follow her interests, but I won't betray my anti-commercial media values by actually showing her the cartoon. Speaking of high horses: I'm a tricky momma, however, and now my morning is centered around not cooking or cleaning (yay!), but channeling this interest into an activity equally satisfying for Willow, but more in tune with my desire that she do something creative and educational. While the girls colored on these ridiculous cartoon Pony pages, I printed off a few horse coloring pages from the Internet and interspersed them in with the others. Here's Sydney's horse:
I love the red devil eyes and the fiery red hooves Sydney graced her horse with.

Then, while the girls were working on a couple of horse coloring pages, I sewed together a couple of blank books (I have got to remember to put aside a sewing machine needle or two just for sewing paper--I can't believe that I was so immersed in my own little mission that I sewed the books together with the nearly new ballpoint needle that was already in the machine). I sat down next to Willow at the table and, when she was finished with her horse picture, I said, sweet and innocent as candy, "Here's a special blank book I just made for you. Do you want to tell me a horse story for it?" And Willow proceeded to dictate a twenty-minute-long narrative about a unicorn named Chicka-dee-dee who gets a pet bird, meets a herd of unicorns, battles two dinosaurs, falls into the ocean, and disappears herself onto an airplane. Then she illustrated it:
Here's the dictation Sydney gave me for her own book, and her illustration:

Does the phrase "Daddy's little girl" have any significance here?

So, yeah, I'm a wiley momma who will use my so-far greater intelligence as mere deviousness in order to trick my child away from a pleasure she embraces and toward what I want. Well, if you can't manipulate your children, then who can you legally manipulate?

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