Early summer sun lit the sky as the kids played in our backyard. Seizing precious alone time, I sat down at our outdoor table with a tablet and some watercolors. I’m a complete amateur, but painting helps me slow down and pour my mental energy into creating; it simultaneously stimulates and relaxes my mind. I love it. In fact, one of my resolutions for 2017 is to learn how to watercolor—one component of a renewed personal effort to keep learning. It’s my own goal, but my children seemed acutely interested as I set to work.
Their curiosity was not lost on me. I marveled at their interest. First, one child noticed me getting my makeshift studio ready and shouted to the other one: “Mommy’s painting! Mommy’s painting! Come on!” They raced down the grassy hill and up the stairs to sit as close to me as possible while I worked. I started sketching, and it didn’t take long for one of my daughters to gather her own drawing pad and pencil. Soon both of them were hard at work, sketching bird feeders and eyelashes. As I began mixing colors and dabbing at the paint with my brush, I noticed one child copying my paint tray, drawing each swirling mixture, square by square. We were a happy trio of artists, attempting to capture a portrait of the world with a few simple supplies.
The whole event reminded me of the necessity of modeling a life of learning for my children. They are watching—and even mimicking—my pursuits. Had I sat down with phone in hand to scroll through the latest social media buzz, I would have been hearing repetitive pleas for cell phones and whining complaints about the unfairness of not having one (I know this from experience!). It’s no surprise that children copy the behavior they see in adults. They often learn to love what we love.
Children need to see adults who haven’t lost their love for learning. They need to see parents and mentors whose passionate pursuit of knowledge is still on display. My hope and prayer is that when my daughters (and students!) cast their eyes at me, they will see a woman who still asks questions, pursues new skills, works with determination, and even fails sometimes. If we don’t offer our own example to them, we shouldn’t be surprised when our admonitions for intellectual growth are not compelling—nor should we be shocked by their indifference.