I often wish that I could take a new understanding that I get from watching my kids and bottle it up and then pour it into their head. To show them what I see.
This weekend we welcomed Jane into the realm of the teenager. I haven’t been ready for the past thirteen years and I’m still not. The things I have taught her over these years could fit in a small pamphlet but the things she has taught me have helped fill me out as a person, on the inside. Doughnuts have helped me fill out as a person on the outside. I’ve had to wrestle with myself on what I believe and how I want to be seen in the eyes of others. I’ve softened how I interact with the world. We have learned to support the underdogs and enjoy the weird things in life. I’m definitely a better person because of her.
Several years ago she wanted to draw something. If I remember correctly it was horses. We had discussions on art and her frustrations with not being able to draw the thing that she had in her mind. I told her the secret that I wish someone had told me, “No one is naturally good at anything but peeing and pooping and everything else is learned.”
Everything. Else. Is. Learned.
When you drop out of the womb you learn to breath air. You learn to nurse to get food. You learn to cry with the new air in your lungs and you learn to enjoy human contact. Babies aren’t born with the ability to talk or sing or dance or draw. Somewhere along the way we try these things and mostly suck at it. Babies are terrible at almost anything but undeterred by anything. That is the magic of babies. They will try to the point of injury to do the thing that cannot yet be done.
I told Jane to keep drawing. To take one thing and draw it really well. Learn why it looks like this or that. Practice shading. Practice shapes. Draw the same damn horse five million times. Use every sheet of paper and all of your markers to make a pile of terrible drawings. Then take the things you like and put them together in a new drawing. Throw the rest away. Keeping doing it. Practice with anything that you might ever want to draw. Then one day, you will look up from the scribbled bodies strewn around your floor and you will realize not only can you draw but you are an artist.
She has been into drawing Anime characters in the latest drawing phase. She is an excellent artist. She has found several apps that help develop the drawing process and shading and even time-lapse her work. She has even started teacher her sisters some art basics.
I fancied myself an artist back in the day but I wasn’t nearly as talented.
Jane has always made me proud. She has always known what she liked and been brave enough to be herself. From an unprompted Lord of the Rings fandom to making more money that I expected from competitive goat showing, Jane is always chasing a new passion.
She always looks to me to smile or give a thumbs up of approval. She brings her drawings to me when she finishes and I always take a picture on my phone. I have a running record.
The truth in a bottle that I would love to pour into her head is that we are both seeking each other’s approval. I want to be sure that I am a good father and she wants to be sure that she meets my approval as a daughter. The funny part is that as long as we are both trying our best, the other will never be disappointed.
I hope that the next thirteen years are just as fun and interesting and amazing as the last round.
Happy Birthday Jane!
If you have kids growing up way too fast, this post is for you. You’re welcome. All of my kids are awesome but they weren’t all born on the same day so this one is for Jane.
-Underdaddy to the rescue.
I have followed your blog for many years. I have read some amazing, poignant and very touching posts from you. This is beautiful, and as Jane grows and looks back on this content it will remind her how lucky she is to have you as her Dad. All your children are lucky, today is the day that she feels the luckiest. Happy Birthday Calamity Jane! Keep doing what you’re doing Underdaddy, because right now you’re rockin’ it! Love from Texas
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Aww thank you! And thanks for sticking with me.