Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Joey the Dragon Day

Today was Joey the Dragon day at Nathan’s kindergarten class.  My friends, Christina Clemis and Joey Hoffer, wrote and illustrated a children’s book about a friendly dragon searching for a home (available on www.joeythedragon.com).  They came to speak to the class about writing the book and drawing the illustrations, to show them that real people write books. 

I was very proud of my friends and really happy that the teacher helped organize this.  First of all, I’m proud of them for writing the book and getting it published because it takes courage to put a little piece of yourself out there for judgment.  I’m also proud that they came to the school.  They looked so at home in front of the kids.

If I had seen a presentation like this when I was a kid, it might not have taken me as long to get the courage up to start sharing the stories floating in my head.  I thought artists, actors and writers were all tremendously gifted people who were identified at an early age and if no one was encouraging you (by which I mean professionally training you) by the time you started school then you were probably never going to do it.  A flawed conception, I admit, but one which took some work to overcome.

My family was always very practically oriented.  When I said I wanted to be an artist, my parents asked what I was going to do to earn a living.  Because art was good and something people should do, but it wouldn’t pay the bills.  Now this is tried and true advice in the vast majority of situations but I think it was applied a little prematurely.  If a five year old says he wants to be a fire-engine when he grows up, you don’t talk about the difficulty of animate-inanimate transmogrification.  Instead you invite him to use his imagination, talk about what he would do as a fire truck, secure in the knowledge that next week will be a different dream.

When I was pregnant, I was determined to encourage my children in whimsy, silliness and imagination.  The practical world crushes dreams at an astounding rate, so I wanted to make sure their dreams were resilient and, more importantly, always regenerating.  It doesn’t matter how many dreams are crushed if you can always find your way back for more.

Ironically, my children are very practical people.  But I’ve still snuck some whimsy in there.  They laugh freely and without self-consciousness.  They dance as if no one is watching and sing as if no one is listening.  Freedom to dream is a wonderful gift and I hope some children were able to pick it up today.

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