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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

When Right Brain Parenting Goes Wrong

Image credit: http://www.andrewkeir.com/creative-collection/right-left-brain-mercedes-all-nothing/

There is no doubt that I was born right brained. Each of my parents are right brained, my brother is right brained, my sister...well, she is the left brained logical-pants of the family.  It has taken me almost 34 years to accept this about myself. It seems that being artistic was considered second to being able to solve a mathematical equation.  My parents sent me to a private school that boasted their emphasis on fine arts.  This may have been true in comparison to other schools, but in all actuality it was highly competitive in the academic area too. I believe that is where I grew to believe I was stupid. I received praise for my paintings, acting and writing, but that was not enough to hide my mediocre (at best) grades in math and science.  My Dad's father was a lawyer, his father was a judge and the list of intellectuals goes higher and higher on the family tree. My dad is a brilliant artist, my earliest memories of his ability were his excitement to design my birthday invitations.  Needless to say, he did not become a lawyer to his father's chagrin. Instead, he majored in industrial design and used his talent to create a very successful business that provided for our family and still does.
My parents had the best intentions. They finished college, (my mom majored in dance), so it was not an option for me not to. Even though I had to take Algebra II three times,  I'm glad I stuck it out. Being right brained can make you less appealing to traditional career paths.  Accounting was not an option so I majored in theater.  I made it through my general classes and tried to make them as creative as possible. My brain processes information in colors, sounds and mostly in story telling. I create back stories for everything as a way to make sense of things.  I am more interested in where the coffee bean grew, how the logo was created, rather than how Jerry Baldwin grew a .75 cup of coffee into a billion dollar business called Starbucks.
I am grateful to my parents for not showing a bit of concern when my intellectual pursuits of science never surfaced.  It was what I did in art class that interested them more.  In high school my dad actually called a conference with the art teacher to discuss my progression and her rigid approach to impressionistic painting that  he believed stifled my personal expression. I'm sure he will go down as the first and only person to call a conference with an art teacher in high school.  Even their opposition couldn't shake the underlining fact I had already convinced myself was true..I was dumb.
I have been trying to prove otherwise ever since. In a society that thinks that artsy people are a bit flighty it has been tough. If you watch American Idol, you will see the majority of people desperate for fame, not following their true selves. A bad example of artistic types. Where I struggle most is the places that I have worked. Like a magnet I seem to gravitate towards bosses that make it a sport to berate my ideas and scoff at my knowledge.  I am surrounded by people who have excelled, even identify themselves by how many degrees they have. I swallow those hurtful notions daily and give thanks that I have a career that provides for my family and I have found  extra curricular creative outlets to keep my sanity, but again its considered a hobby if I tell people I paint or write to center me when my mind catches a conventional virus.
Recently, history repeated itself. My son's pre-school teacher took me aside and expressed her concern that Jack's drawings were of the violent nature. Even accusing him of drawing a friend nailed to a cross. I won't go into the details that he isn't exposed to crucifixes or that his artistic skills would justify a crayon drawing with such meticulous detail.
What surprised me most was the way I handled it, I immediately sided with her. 
I took him to the car and scolded him for drawing inappropriate things. I had taken something he was proud of and made it into a subject of shame.  Within minutes of seeing tears streaming down his face I realized what I had done and tried to fight back the tears I felt.  I went back into the school and asked the teacher for the drawings, she didn't have them. She had thrown them away!  I apologized to Jack for my reaction and assured him that his art was beautiful. This is where right brained parenting waters get a bit murky.  I was protecting him from the struggles I went through. Who am I, or anyone for that matter, to censor a 4 year olds attempt to express himself through art? This is where I could learn a lesson from my parents.  How were they so confident and so proud of a child that excelled in everything that was considered an elective or my favorite, "blow off" classes?  I still haven't found the answer to that. When Jack's teacher was talking to me it was as if I stepped back in time. I was the soprano in an opera where the chorus surrounded me, singing " Your stupid! You can't parent and Your Stupid, Stupid Stupid!" (In every opera the chorus repeats itself over and over again in case you were wondering.) And my bad parenting was center stage for everyone's entertainment.
How selfish to have made it about me.  It was as if my chorus woke me up. I look at Jack and I am in awe of his painting, his acting and his story telling, sounds familiar doesn't it?  He is perfect. The first thing the next day, I called the director of school and expressed my anger and I didn't back down until I received confirmation that this would not happen again, especially to one of my boys.
Sometimes these incidents shake you awake and you take a birds eye look at your life.  I realize that my oldest son is also a right brainer and is at a magnet school for math and science. He would do so much better at a Montessori school, as I would have, maybe math and science would have made sense to me and maybe it could make sense to him.  My second son is so left brained it makes mine cramp. I am in awe of his precise and rational intelligence.  The baby hasn't declared his side preference yet. But if you asked me who was smarter,  Fin or Parker I would say they are equal, but their test scores and traditional ways to measure it may not be a reflection of that. Even more so, their future career pursuits.  What I can hope for them is that future creative gentleman will be looked at as an asset when its time for them to enter the work force. Looking to their grandpa for inspiration.  Although being artsy has limited me in some areas, it has allowed me to see that being a mom is the most colorful experience one could have and parenting is anything but black and white.

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