When we were growing up, my siblings and I sometimes had to go to Carma’s. Looking back, the day care surely wasn’t legal—it entailed dozens of kids and one grumpy woman more concerned about her soaps and her dogs than the children under her care, it seemed.
I vividly remember the vinyl couch and carpet covers that protected against spills. I remember one time when a queue of little kids stared at me as I sat on the toilet—a mortifying experience that told me I was holding up their pre-nap pee. I remember Carma once fixed me an egg salad sandwich instead of my usual PB&J and I sat at the table, horrified, deciding between eating a hated food or getting scolded.
Most of all, though, I remember that each child was allowed only one piece of paper to color. I would plan out my artistic vision, carefully choose my crayons and cover every inch of white—on both sides, of course.
Looking back, my heart breaks for 5-year-old me. There I was, stuck in a miserable day care I hated, with my one escape—Crayolas and art—arbitrarily limited.
Peeper, thankfully, is blissfully unaware that a limit on paper could actually exist. When she paints, she does so with a gleeful abandon, mashing her palms in the paint and clapping her rainbow-hued hands together. “Another one!” she says as she fills each page with smears of color. Before long, art covers the table, counters and even the stove.
I send these masterpieces to family, turn them into birthday and baby shower cards and save my favorites in a file for later. I have grand plans to scan a bunch to print in a keepsake book—much easier to flip through than a pile of papers stuck in storage.
But even if they just end up in a stack in the kitchen forever, I don’t mind. Peeper doesn’t give a thought to where her creations will end up; she simply enjoys the process of dabbing paint to paper (and hands/face/high chair).
I love her creative spirit, her urge to make her mark. That streak of red says, “I was here.” The green-and-orange handprints say, “I have ideas.” Those brushstrokes say, “I’m testing out my place in the world and what my body can do.” To help that exploration, I will give her as many opportunities—and as many pieces of paper—as she wants.