This post relates to our most recent podcast about immunizing your kids from Adultitis. I link to a Daily Guideposts article written by Mary Engelbreit. Mary is an artist whose warm and charming style is the star of an extremely popular stationery line. In the article, she shares stories about her upbringing, and the ups and downs of “making it” as an artist. One thing that stuck out to me was the variety of advice she received from the “grown-ups” in her life.
Her high school guidance counselor, after hearing that Mary wanted to illustrate children’s books, offered this advice: “You can’t do that. You’ve got to be practical. Get a degree in English so you can teach.”
Mary recalls that after graduation, there were many people “who thought being an artist was too unrealistic for everyday life and often asked, ‘So, Mary, what are you really going to do?’”
Fortunately for Mary, her parents were here biggest supporters. She writes:
Then I thought of my parents, and the faith they had had in me right from the beginning. I remembered when I was nine years old, and hurried home to tell Mom that I had met my first real artist. She was a woman who sometimes baby-sat for us and had her own studio set up in her basement. “Mommy,” I announced, “I need a studio.”
Mom didn’t say, “Honey, we don’t have space for you to have anything like that” (which we didn’t). She merely nodded matter-of-factly as though my request made perfect sense—and emptied our linen closet. Out went the vacuum, mops, and towels, and in went my desk, chair and pen-and-ink set. I sat crammed in there for hours, learning how to draw by copying the illustrations from my mother’s and grandmother’s old-fashioned storybooks and signing my work with my very convenient initials, ME.
From that time on my parents always treated my art as serious business. Bolstered by their support, I continued on even without formal training, telling myself over and over what they had instilled in me: “Of course you can become an artist. Keep working for it. If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.”
What a great gift Mary received from her parents. I, too, have been blessed with a mom and dad who have been extremely supportive. As a parent, it is not always possible to to provide your child with the best of everything (even though you wish you could.) Although being able to afford the best education, the best equipment, and the best opportunities for your child is helpful, these things are not nearly as valuable as believing in your child’s dreams. And not only believing in them, but showing them, through your words and actions, that you believe. The world will dish out more than its fair share of discouragement and “reality checks.” But the firm and confident encouragement from a parent can serve as a life preserver when the going gets tough. Those words and those actions mean more than you’ll ever know.
I’ll wrap it up with some more words from Ms. Engelbreit:
When my sons were little and people asked them about their mom, they said, “She colors all day.” Their reply still makes me laugh, because coloring is the kind of activity a lot of adults might think strange. It’s right up there with dreaming. Dreaming, some think, is a waste of time.
Today my studio is only 10 miles from where I was born—from where my parents encouraged a little girl to color away in a closet, to use her imagination and dream her dreams. As far as I’m concerned, dreaming isn’t a pleasant pastime, it’s a responsibility. We all have to do it, to bring a sense of fun and wonder into our daily lives. And to be the best we can become.