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  • Writer's pictureLoveday Funck

When We Should Listen

Updated: Jun 9, 2023

At busy art markets and festivals, my booth becomes a fascinating hub of activity. People come and go, each with their own quirks and preferences; from conservative individuals who struggle to connect with my art to intrigued teenagers who find anything "different" captivating. My favorite interactions, though, tend to be with children.

Children love my work. They're drawn to the bright colors and unexpected subjects. I understand completely as my art reflects my inner child. That inner child wants to play with all the bright colors and bizarre creations, but working within the confines of a canvas gives her a sense of control in an overwhelming and overstimulating world.

Sometimes parents bring their restless kids to my booth as a way to keep them occupied. I enjoy those interactions as long as parents watch and make sure the little ones don't touch anything they shouldn't. I'm not here to babysit your children and I don't want to play security guard.

Too often, though, parents haven't talked with their children about expectations and how to behave at the market. So the family arrives at the event and the kids watch their parents buy stuff left and right. And then, their parents lead them into my booth, filled with colorful and enticing artwork. The children's eyes light up, but confusion sets in when they're told they can't take anything home. Sometimes the parents turn to me, expecting an explanation for their children as to why the kids can't have a piece of art.

I don't control the budget, but it just seems shortsighted to direct a child's attention to things they can't actually have.

On Saturday, a family with two young kids, a three-year-old girl and a five-year-old boy were making the rounds of the art market. Their mom had promised them each a special item of their choice which is wonderful. I love to see children being taught to appreciate creativity and support local artists.

The little girl wasted no time deciding what she wanted: a small bunny plushie. The boy seemed a bit unsure. He picked up a few things, only to put them back down. But then, his eyes locked onto a canvas featuring a Victorian lady with raven wings, and he knew exactly what he wanted.

His mom was there, along with a couple of aunts, but none of them seemed too thrilled about his choice. They tried their best to steer his attention toward my grab bags (I have some pendant shapes that I'm discontinuing as well as some smaller canvases)

The more they tried to sway him, the more determined he became. He wanted the gothic Victorian lady, and he wasn't budging.

After a little back and forth, the adults finally gave in and let him have it. The aunts and the little girl moved on to check out other booths, while the boy and his mom lingered for a moment.

His mom asked me to tell her son about the image. I told her I named her Lady Poe, imagining her as the wife of the famous poet Edgar Allan Poe. I pointed out the raven wings, inspired by Poe's love for all things raven-related.

The boy nodded, taking it all in, and off they went from my booth.

Parents redirecting their kids' attention is something we see all the time. Sometimes it's necessary for their safety and well-being, but how often do we redirect them just because their tastes don't align with ours?

I've seen parents scold little boys for wanting a necklace because "boys don't wear jewelry." And the whole scene with parents disapproving of their kids' art choices? Yeah, that happens far too often.

I get it. My work is weird. It's not for everyone, and that's totally fine. I appreciate when adults give my art a curious glance, maybe even offer a half-hearted compliment, and move on.

I absolutely love when parents encourage their kids to engage with my art, asking them which pieces they like and why. I appreciate that parents try to spark that artistic connection with their children. Just make sure to set some ground rules beforehand, like no touching and when it's okay to bring something home.

I do find it concerning when adults try to police and control what their kids like. Encourage them to have their own opinions.

If your daughter likes robots, let her enjoy the robots. If your son prefers ravens over race cars, just let him.

I remember feeling unheard as a child. I remember being talked over and told that what I liked wasn't really what I liked. It left me feeling powerless and frustrated.

Please don't dangle the idea of choice and empowerment in front of a child only to snatch it away because their taste in art doesn't align with yours. Let them be themselves and let them enjoy being themselves.

Children deserve the freedom to express their own tastes and preferences, even when they differ from ours. We must resist the temptation to impose our own agenda upon them, allowing them to explore and appreciate the world through their unique lens.

By listening to our children and valuing their individuality, we grant them the precious gift of self-expression and empowerment. Let us not stifle their creativity or dampen their enthusiasm with arbitrary judgments. Instead, let us embrace their choices, whether they find delight in whimsical bunnies or gothic Victorian ladies.

As parents and guardians, we have the opportunity to foster a sense of wonder, curiosity, and open-mindedness in our children. Let's encourage them to explore art, music, literature, and all forms of creative expression. And as we walk alongside them in this journey, let's remember to truly listen. Let's respect their voices.

Always lead with love.

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