As soon as my children were born and I started really watching how they interacted with the world, I knew I could not force my limited ways of thinking upon them. From early on when they made toys from acorns and fluff, experimented with language and at times seemed to connect with an invisible world that I could not see, I wanted to offer them a home that encouraged free thought, possibilities and hands on experiences. Whether telling stories, making up songs, or going on day long wanderings, I want them to feel thatthey are creating their experiences, their education, and their life.
The ideal of this vision sounds so much more saccharine than the messy reality (and by messy, I do not mean the way people use the word now to mean kind of sexy. I really mean messy).
For us, the creative life is not a swirly, gentle lifestyle where we are all happily singing as we transition from task to task. It takes immense personal responsibility and dedication to truly create a life and resist what I call "default living".
Our family life is painfully beautiful and sublime at times. Sometimes we can even enter flow as a family while we create. But many other times we are sloppy with our intentions and become frustrated and so angry at each other, ourselves and our emerging talents. We fail spectacularly, we get it all wrong and sometimes we do not how to rebuild what we have broken. A creative family is not always a peaceful family. The sweat and tears that pour while we individually dig into the meat of life and the essence of who we are is worth bearing and offers a deeper sense of well-being than just the causal ease of everyone getting along. We realize that being uncomfortable often opens a space where things start to get interesting.
Allowing for and encouraging creativity makes the family culture so much richer. It offers our family a shared culture and language based on our experiences together. We have jokes and memories that are so specific they barely make sense to us. We become a team of dreamers, a club of doers and a battalion of warriors, all together.
From those first days, I could see that my kids had so much to offer me. They had new ways of looking at things, different methods of solving problems and more complex ways of experiencing life. What would I have missed out on if I only supported my own myopic ideas on how a family should work? I never would have tromped through a rainforest looking for stick bugs. I never would have danced around in a roomful of strangers in my socks. I never would have protested the circus or slept in my backyard.
Encouraging creativity in your home is so much more than making sure you have markers and glue available to your children. And while I think a creative, "open-source" lifestyle looks different for each family, here are three fundamentals that I think we all share:
embracing a "yes" philosophy.
Automatic "no's" shut down the any conversation and connection we might build with the asker. Strive for a "yes" always, even if it needs qualifiers. And you can turn the responsibility over to the requester. "Yes, we can go to the Galapagos Islands, if we can figure out how to save $15,000. How can we do that?" (That is an actual conversation going on in my house now. When I was growing up, I hated the automatic "no" and the way it pushed me out of the process of problem solving).
teaching our kids how to look closely
By allowing ourselves to slow down, to avoid automatically heading to electronic devices when there is a lull in the day, and to experience boredom, we also encourage deeper looking and noticing. I think that being able to "look" closely and notice the minute is a skill that is not always valued in the shotgun approach to many of our day's activities. The subtle and small can become the infinite and profound, offering answers or at least some direction to the biggest problems facing us. I will always remember when my 8 year old son called me over to hear the sound of a snail eating or how we used to wait and watch our chickens lay their eggs. The mystery of the universe revealed itself and bound us together in new ways.
talking and reading a lot
When people ask me what curriculum we use, my answer for the longest time was, "The one where you talk all day." Through conversation; real, meaningful conversation, we as a family ask big questions, make proclamations about what we believe, change long held tenets, and begin to connect the threads from all the facets of our lives into a more cohesive structure. Reading out loud as a family encourages exploration, discovery and even more conversation.
This is what a creative life looks like to our family. I would love to have your thoughts on what your creative family looks like in the comments.