It’s easy to become complacent about the boys, to believe that just because I’ve been around all their lives, I get them. It’s therefore always a bit of a wake-up when I discover that I’m totally wrong about something.
Most recently this was brought home to me by The Art Book For Children. I got this from the library partly on a whim, partly by a recommendation, and thought it might well be one of those library books which is hardly opened. I loved making art as a child, but I was never much interested in learning about art history. The boys, who show only minimal enthusiasm for drawing, I thought would be similarly uninterested.
Then again, I could have reminded myself that I don’t always make good predictions about their reading interests. Only a few weeks ago I was surprised when Ryan, for his bedtime reading, worked us all the way through a book on shells — one aimed at children years older than him, talking about things like layers of calcium carbonate and how the structure thereof differs between a snail shell and an egg shell. Then he started us re-reading it again immediately after having finished.
He was the same one who picked out the art book and brought it to me. And yes, it’s written in an engaging style, and skips around to various artists from various times, so it doesn’t read like an art history book so much as an eclectic introduction to the wide world of art. (It would probably be better categorized as “art appreciation.”) Ryan seems more interested than Nathan; on the second night we looked at it he took me back to the Botticelli page for a re-reading. They both spent some time examining the page of optical illusions, and they both wanted to skip the Picasso page.
This is yet another reminder to me that they are simply in a different place in their lives. My world is full of ideas or subjects that I’ve chosen to pursue or not to pursue — and if I’m not careful, that choosing has ossified into a knee-jerk reaction. I am interested in biology, pre-modern history, and fiber arts; I’m not interested in politics, sports, and art history. I sometimes forget that the world is vast and fascinating and I am still just a neophyte in it, and that in any case I am a vastly different person from who I was even a few years ago.
But the boys, with fewer preconceptions, engage differently. That doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of arbitrary snap judgments — when I try them on a new recipe I hold my breath. But they haven’t already written off art history as probably boring, so a book about art doesn’t generate the same automatic reaction in them as it does in me.
Thank goodness. Because I’m enjoying this book too.