O: I’m going to bring my beautiful art to the store and give it to people.
O grabbed a stack of her school paintings and made this announcement one Sunday afternoon as we headed to the grocery store to stock up for the week.
Two things immediately ran through my head:
1. S#!t, my preschooler is going to assault, poor, unsuspecting shoppers and foist her artwork on them.
2. Double S#it, it is going to break my heart to see her face rejection when someone doesn’t want her art.
Let’s face it, children are nothing if not prolific painters, and each painting is a masterpiece to our little Frida Kahlo. Parents who have forgotten to take out the trash after a late night art purge know the deep sadness and hurt of their little artist when he or she finds artwork that has been tossed away.
As we drove to the store, I just kept hoping she would forget about it and leave her art in the car because:
1. I wanted to get in and out of the store as fast as possible, and stopping to hand out artwork was not going to make things go any faster,
2. I didn't want to make any other Sunday afternoon shopper's life more difficult by having to deal with an art peddler, and
3. I am not an overly social creature, unlike O, and the thought of potentially talking to everyone we met in the store produced more social anxiety than I wanted to admit.
And it was this third item that made me reexamine my position. I was letting my anxiety dictate how I want O to interact with the world. So, I reevaluated the options and realized that, if I set the right expectations, this could be a learning experience for both of us.
Before we went into the store, I explained to O that she could ask people if they wanted her artwork, and if they said, yes, she could hand them a painting; if they said, no, she needed to accept that they didn't want it and that it was OK to just move on.
In the end, I was surprised that of the four people she approached, three actually took the artwork and seemed genuinely engaged in conversation with this four-year-old art vendor. One declined politely and O just moved on to the next person.
That day, I hope O learned how to approach people with her precious talents in a way that will allow her to share graciously with those who are interested and easily walk away from those who are not.
I learned that examining my parental motivations is even more crucial than I thought. By setting expectations for both of us, it ended up being a delightful trip to the grocery store.