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Published November 26, 2012, 11:35 PM

Parenting Perspectives: Creative kids a challenge

Do you know what you get when you cross a creative type with another creative type? You get a fiercely right-brained kid. In our case we got two of them in our twin 8-year-old daughters, Ariana and Talia. (Could be three. The jury’s still out on our 4-year-old son.)

I probably have no one to blame but myself. I’m a writer by training. I should have known better than to marry a pianist.

Oh, Amy’s a beautiful person and a wonderful wife. But do you know what you get when you cross a creative type with another creative type? You get a fiercely right-brained kid. In our case we got two of them in our twin 8-year-old daughters, Ariana and Talia. (Could be three. The jury’s still out on our 4-year-old son.)

These two are endless fountains of creativity, perpetually rising tides of artistic output. The problem is getting them to get their shoes on in the morning … or do anything that involves ordered steps toward a practical end.

Honestly, they can sit and draw 25 pictures of puppies visually expressing every emotion possible for an anthropomorphized cartoon dog, but tell them to go brush their teeth, put on their PJs and put their clothes in the laundry and, 30 minutes later, they MIGHT have clean teeth, and they will undoubtedly still have their dirty clothes on their person.

I truly love my daughters. They are the very beat of my heart. But about the 12th time you tell someone in your charge to continue picking up the Legos, your patience starts to wear thin. Parent-teacher conference nights invariably mean discussions about staying on task, spaciness and the like.

And the thing is, they’ve always been smart. They were early readers. Their language skills have always been strong. They can spell the word “Xoloitzcuintli.” (It’s a dog breed, by the way. I wouldn’t have known either if they hadn’t told me.)

So what’s going on inside their heads? Well, perhaps their drawings offer some insight. They’ve developed this style of drawing that involves filling up a page of paper with drawings of various sorts and sizes in an apparent burst of stream-of-conscious sketching, as if their brains simply vomited creativity onto paper.

Take a look at the drawing by Talia that accompanies this column. I honestly think that if you could look inside their little brains, this is exactly what you’d see. No wonder they can’t stay on task; there’s puppies all over the place in there!

And you think to yourself, are these people unhinged? Am I doing something wrong as their dad? But my wife and I keep mulling this reoccurring question: What if this is just (or to a great degree) a product of freakish brilliance … a brilliance that bursts through in strange, distracting ways?

I can hear some out there saying, “Yeah, your kids’ minds wander at school, and that equals elevated intelligence … right.”

I know, I know. It sounds conveniently self-serving. But I was watching a PBS documentary about the great American photographer Ansel Adams. Along with his visual talents, he was also a gifted pianist, teaching himself to read music at the age of 12.

“Prone to fits of uncontrollable weeping and filled with a restless surging energy he could not contain,” the documentary narrator said, describing Adams in childhood.

Adams was enrolled in one school after another without success. He even found it difficult to remain seated at his desk.

One of the interviewees in the documentary said, “There was this incredible chaos or fire or energy or something roaring around inside (Adams) all the time, trying to get out.”

So what do you do with the scattered, creative child who still needs to learn to brush their teeth, turn in their homework and eventually pay bills and vote in elections? At some point, we may have to step in and take more extreme measures. For now, we watch, wait and ride herd while allowing and encouraging the creativity and trying to let our daughters feel the consequences of unmet responsibilities.

Does it concern me? Yeah. But, hey, Ansel ended up doing okay.

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