Open up your child to beauty!
I clearly remember that during my pregnancy, when I already knew I was carrying two girls, I had two wishes (apart from the universal wish all parents have – that their children are healthy and strong). The first was that at least one of them had blue eyes like me and the other that they both liked to read. Well, we know that not all wishes come true in real life (especially not silly ones, but you’re allowed to have silly wishes during pregnancy). Neither of them have blue eyes. As for the latter, my wish came true.
I truly believe that reading is the key to opening doors to new worlds. It not only encourages intelligence and knowledge as it awakens the imagination, which is necessary for understanding all other forms of art, but it also enhances the quality of our lives. It teaches us to dream. And life is dull if we don’t know how to dream.
And so, I set out to read and read to them, even before they could speak. When they learned all their picture books by heart, I made up stories. When they mastered letters, I continued to bury them in books. At first, they relied on my choices, and then at one point I realized that these little reading minds were starting to think for themselves - in line with their own tastes and new generational trends. Tom Sawyer was a turning point. One of my favorite childhood books was deadly boring to my daughters. Jules Verne - nothing special. Before I could recommend Dickens, a miracle called Harry Potter appeared. Of course, they watched the movie first, but when you’re 8 or 9 and you finish a 500-page book, it’s a feat. I knew then that I had succeeded in my original intention. They didn't consult with me that much anymore. Instead, they searched for books that interested them, either online or through a friend’s recommendation. After a few years, I sat out to read a bunch of books they recommended to me, which nominally belong to young adult fiction, which by the way didn’t even exist in my day. We entered a two-way street. I kept trying to pass on my experiences and knowledge, but I also learned from them.
When it comes to music, the basis, of course, were Disney songs. The Sound of Music, as well. And Annie. It's always easier when you can connect different art forms - when you can visualize a book or a song. If you have a hard time persuading your child to read a book, watch a movie with them. Every important classic has been made into a cartoon or a movie. Or, introduce them to classical music by watching Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Maybe they will be more open to Tchaikovsky or any other composer after that. Or to jazz after seeing the Jungle Book.
You also have to keep up with them, so you don’t lose them along the way. I am an 80s girl, and although I never got them to love “the new wave” or punk bands, at least they heard it and tolerated it. Later, I was the one who introduced them to talent shows, because I liked to watch them, but they introduced me to One Direction. And after that - Shawn Mendes, Ed Sheeran and the rest. As a Mom, I have to know who their idols are. When we travel by car, they sing songs from my generation, and I from theirs and we know all the words.
Art is still a “no man’s land” when it comes to my children. When you’re born as a not overly artistic type you need some encouragement, but only in terms of education. Education has nothing to do with feeling. I always gladly remember a sentence from one of my favorite movies, Object of Beauty. A deaf girl, a hotel maid, steals a small Henry Moore statue from one of the rooms. When asked why she did it, she says, "It spoke to me, and I heard it." I have to be honest. Nothing has yet spoken to my girls in that sense. When they go to a new city, they certainly don’t run to a museum or an art gallery. Until that happens, I’ll continue to talk to them about art so that they know the basics, hoping that one day they too will “hear” something. But, even if they don’t, at least they will know the basics.
When my kids were little, social media and smart phones weren’t that pervasive. It was possible, more so than now, to control what they were exposed to and what they watched and listened to. I admit that it’s harder for parents today. And that’s why it’s more important than ever before to be part of their world for as long as possible. The world is rapidly changing right before our eyes. If it's hard for us to keep up, imagine what it's like for them. We, who lived our lives at a slower pace, had the luxury of appreciating beauty. In addition to support and love, find time, but also inspiration and patience to go in that direction with your children. Because it’s worth it.