Anxiety wrapped up in a big ball of awesome

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

I’ve always embraced this John Lennon quote. Ok, I’ll be honest. I wish I could embrace this John Lennon quote.

If there’s anything being a mom has taught me, it’s how to go with the flow. Understand, this has not been an easy adage for me to adopt. As creative as I am, I’m still a list maker who dreams of organized sock drawers and an empty inbox. Instead, I’m lucky to find matching hosiery and I have 3083 email messages that silently mock me from the safety of my computer.

Still, today – at our house - I floated with the current.

Now that she’s three, I like to encourage my daughter to choose which art supplies she feels like working with. On this day, she dug out a few little pots of acrylic paint, some paintbrushes, small paper plates and oil pastels. While she laid out the materials, I filled a small bowl with water.

Together my girl and I dabbed bright juicy colours onto little round canvases. Until, it occurred to her that she might like to move the paint water from the bowl, into an empty coffee mug that was sitting nearby.

She actually has decent fine motor skills and has pretty much mastered the art of pouring apple juice. Still, I twitched a little bit (ok, a lot) as I sat back to watch the experiment unfold.  I’m sure there’s a scientific term for what happened next. As is so often the case with preschool-aged children, the cup is never big enough for the fluid being presented and so, a convex meniscus (hello science!) formed just before the water volcano erupted onto the floor.

I carefully placed the bowl beneath the mug to collect the drips and a few quick wipes with a towel took care of the rest. But my daughter wasn’t satisfied. After asking her dad, nana and I if we had ever experienced such misfortune (and after we all regaled her with tales of coffee spills, orange juice mishaps and paint catastrophes), she decided to come at the problem from a different direction.

“Maybe,” she pondered out loud, “if I had two mugs, it wouldn’t spill over.”

Our art minute had morphed into science hour within a matter of seconds. I think this is what folks refer to as one of those “teachable moments”. As a sometimes-rigid (yet still quite imaginative) person, I call it anxiety wrapped up in a big ball of awesome.

I handed my budding Einstein another mug, which she positioned carefully on the table. She dumped the water from the full mug back into the bowl (which was still reasonably occupied) and set it down too. Slowly and carefully, she poured some water from the bowl into one mug, then the other, taking turns between the two until eventually, both were full and none overflowed. There had been no need for the tray I had hurriedly placed.

Then, the littlest one stood back, raised her arms and cheered – as did I. The only thing left to do after that, was to celebrate. With cinnamon toast.

Creativity is an unpredictable and sometimes elusive gal. People often expect to find her dressed up in a bright, flowing gown. But the truth is… most of the time she sits quietly in a watermelon-stained t-shirt, trying to find new ways to approach old quandaries. 

And she rarely (if ever) has time to look at lists.

No, really.

1 comment

  1. YAY for celebrations with cinnamon toast! That used to be something my mom would make for me!


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