My oldest has a knack for getting gifts for people, especially things they wouldn’t get for themselves. When I unwrapped his Christmas gift to me, finding new tubes of acrylic paint, I was touched to say the least. I rarely purchase art supplies for myself, despite loving to make art. Art supplies for my kids, I’ll buy with no hesitation. Art gives something to everyone, whether it is to the one creating it or to those enjoying it. Painting is writing, but with no words. It gives children the ability to express what they might not be able to verbalize yet, consequently both my kids were painting with edible paint as soon as they could sit up at the table. There are sometimes feelings that just don’t have words and words that we just don’t know yet. My son’s awareness of something I might actually like for myself and not just for him surprised me, but not nearly as much as his reasoning. Of course he mentioned that he knew I loved to paint, but he also said, “you’re an artist mommy.” Sometimes, it takes the words that others use to describe you to help you see yourself. There are moments when those words can become what define you, instead of you defining yourself. This wasn’t one of those times. Instead, my son told me a truth I hadn’t yet accepted about myself. Just like not having a formal degree in writing, I don’t have a degree in art. The absence of an official title led me to believe that the label did not apply to me. He and I painted together, with the paints he got me, and he asked during mid stroke, “are you going to sell your art? Can I sell mine?” Just like I realized I had been treating myself as an option in my own life, I realized I hadn’t been allowing myself to give credit for something that I am. If I would immediately tell my son that he could sell his paintings in my Etsy store, then why hadn’t I sold my own? My art is in nearly every room of our house, just as my son’s is and his brother’s. Similar to my insecurity about pricing my detergents and soaps, it took years for me to write publicly because there is a vulnerability involved in creating something and some gumption necessary to let others see it. Several years back, a friend and I went to a bring your own drinks painting class, and I completely ignored the teacher after a glass of whatever yummy liquid my friend brought for us. In a moment of carefree, alcohol induced inhibition, I forgot that I wasn’t an artist and believed I was one. I loved that piece so much I had it professionally framed and hung in our house. It shouldn’t take alcohol for me to be free to be myself and to know with no doubt that I made something beautiful. I should know this about myself with the buzz of bubbly and without. Friends and family shouldn’t have to urge me to let them pay me for photography sessions. I shouldn’t feel guilty for being who I am and creating things, capturing faces and feelings, and making detergent that smells like my grandmother before bedtime in her coral nightgown. I could tell my son no, that he can’t sell his art in my store. I could attempt to teach him some backwards form of humbleness, like the meekness I remember being taught to display in church, but it would really just teach him to undervalue himself, like I have been doing to myself for years. I even worry that these blog posts about me learning to appreciate myself are excessive, overly confident, too self-absorbed. There is a difference between loving yourself and expecting everyone else to revolve around you. Loving myself seems to be something that I thought I knew how to do, but didn’t. I loved the attention that others gave me for being who they said I was without making sure that I was who I wanted to be. If I want my son to believe in himself, then I have to model what that looks like. He clearly already does believe in himself, because he knows his art is worth selling. I’m not going to be the reason he changes his mind. He did a whole lot more than just get me a box of paints. I don’t think I have the words to truly describe what those tubes of paint and creating with him today mean to me, so I guess I’ll just have to paint it and be brave enough to let you see it.
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