I love helping kids make thing, but do kids need as much help as I think? I’m not going to be doing Maker Team this year, but I look back on the years I spent helping kids learn how to make, and I wonder how much of what we made was their vision, and how much was mine? It’s so hard to get out of the way and let kids be kids. It’s so hard to teach someone by letting them make mistakes you know how to avoid. The best teachers know how to do it. The best parents get there before their kids grow up. I’m not there yet.
I’ve got a sculpture that came home from school with my daughter years ago. I’ve treasured it and used it as a candle holder. This year she rediscovered it as we were moving things around to make room for Christmas decorations, and she surprised me with a passionate outburst.
“I hate that—throw it away.”
“But I love it! It’s so pretty!”
“It’s not what I meant it to be at all.”
“Honey, don’t be so hard on yourself. You were like, 7 years old.”
“No, I mean it’s really not what I meant it to be. It was supposed to be a bowl. And it came out of the kiln like that—my teacher changed it.” Vitriol dripping from her voice like blood from a vampire’s fangs.
I don’t know what this looked like before it went into the kiln. You can kind of see the hints of a curved rim—maybe it got squished by another kid, or dropped, or maybe the teacher (and she was a great teacher) thought she was trying to help. Who knows. The one thing she didn’t do was ask my daughter what she wanted before she fixed it.
So now I keep this proudly displayed, but not because it is a beautiful candle holder, and not just to spite my daughter, who still hates it and wants me to throw it away. I keep it to remind me that to some kids, it’s more important to have a lumpy bowl than a beautiful candle holder.