Culture Making Part XIII: The Powerful Alongside the Powerless

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Today I’ll wrap up the Culture Making series. There is so much more in the book, especially for Christians, but I think the series has gone on long enough and it’s high time we got back to practical applications.

As promised, I’ll share an inspiring example of the powerful working alongside – and not on behalf of – the poorest of the poor, and then share a few quotes to give you a taste of what treasures await you if you read Andy Crouch’s book.

Surprising Life in a Garbage Dump

“When I feel frustrated with the limits of my cultural power, as I do more often than I would like to admit, I like to think about the inhabitants of Smokey Mountain [a garbage dump in Manila]. . . There is no reason to think that they have any less innate capacity for cultivation and creativity than any other group of human beings made in God’s image, but they were born in a place where, instead of cultural goods being proposed and going on to reshape their world, the detritus of culture is brought to decompose and die.”

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has tried to increase my gratitude by thinking of those less fortunate than myself, but Crouch takes a surprising turn:

“I know just enough about this community to know that they neither need nor want my pity. In 1980 a Catholic priest named Father Ben relocated to Smokey Mountain from the seminary where he was a promising young scholar. He brought the residents there the good news about Jesus. And he began to instill in them the confidence that God had not forgotten them – indeed, that God was ready to breathe life into their efforts at making a better life for their families. The community of garbage-dump workers persuaded the city to provide them with water and electric services. They have built modest but dignified concrete homes at the edge of the dump, replacing shacks of cardboard and tin. They even built a community center where children play games and older people gather to pass the time.”

“The residents of the Manila garbage dump are not primarily a moral object lesson in my relative affluence. Rather, they are a reminder of the inexhaustible human capacity to cultivate and create.”

Good News To The Poor

“Perhaps that is the truest sense of the “good news to the poor” that Jesus came to proclaim: the poor are not as poor as they, and we, think they are. The creative God of history has made his resurrection power available to them. He has made his power available to us if we will become poor in spirit – no longer simply accumulating power but freely sharing it.”

“When we put our power [to other’s] service, we unlock their creative capacity without in any way diminishing our own – and in this way, spending power is very different from spending money. When we transfer money to another person, their net worth increases while our s decreases, but the power to create cultural goods rarely has this zero-sum quality.”

This goes for spending our power alongside our children, too. It in no way diminishes our own power and authority. If it does, we’re probably not giving them power to create, but power to destroy.

Where Do You Have Power?

As a foreigner, I lack a certain kind cultural power, and I know what a blessing it is to have someone come alongside me with their cultural power to allow me to unleash my creativity in a land that was not originally my own. Most people who serve me in this way probably aren’t even aware of it or what an impact it has on me (husband, are you listening? Thanks!)

In the same way, the power we take for granted could have a huge impact if we spend it alongside those who don’t have that particular kind of power.

Still don’t think you have any power? Think of it this way:

“Most of us have experienced being in a context where our jokes were funny, our ideas provoked interest and excitement, and we felt light and quick on our feet, able to realize our vision with little sense of friction – and then being in another context where the same jokes and ideas fell completely flat and we found ourselves tongue-tied and embarrassed. The difference was, in a word, power. Power, in this sense, is deeply and absolutely dependent on the nature of the particular public we find ourselves among . . . To leave the circle of one’s power is a deeply, existentially unsettling experience.

I’m tempted to say “See how hard life is for us expats!” but that would defeat the point that everyone, everywhere has some kind of power even if it’s not where we want it most.

“Honestly and gratefully assessing where we already have cultural power is also an essential antidote to the futile process of desperately trying to amass more.”

With whom am I sharing my power?

So let’s ask ourselves, “How can I become a steward, investing my cultural power in the dreams and plans of those with less cultural power than myself?”

Culture Always Starts Small

“No matter how many it goes on to affect, culture always starts small. And this means that no matter how complex and extensive the cultural system you may consider, the only way it will be changed is by an absolutely small group of people who innovate and create a new cultural good.”

“When I was twenty-nine I was just beginning the most important cultural calling of my life, shaping the culture of a family that today includes just four people, which, if we are blessed, will widen over the generations, just as my family of origin began with four but now cannot even fit around the large dining table in my parents’ home. Scaling down can be as important as scaling up – I never expect to have better partners in shaping culture than [my wife and children]. Small things can become greater over time – those who are faithful with little are sometimes, just as Jesus said, given the chance to be faithful with much – but small communities can always create things that are out of reach of wider, thinner network.”

 

Bonus quotes for Christians:

“To be Christian is to stake our lives on this belief: the only cultural goods that ultimately matter are the ones that love creates.”

“Grace is for the poor in spirit, and the disciplines bring us, no matter our ascribed power or actual wealth, to keen awareness of our fundamental poverty.”

“Any experienced farmer can inspect the ground, note where the path, rocks and weeds are, and direct his attention to the best soil. But there is no way to similarly inspect the human heart. . . . What we can do, however, is pay careful attention to the fruit of our cultural work. Do we see a divine multiplication at work after we have done our best? Does a riotous abundance of grain spring up from a tiny, compact seed? This is grace: unearned, unexpected abundance that can leave us dizzy with joy. It is a return on investment that exceeds anything we could explain by our own effectiveness or efforts.”

To me this describes work in the home perfectly. It isn’t efficient or glamorous, but it yields this kind of dizzying abundance that can’t be fully explained or quantified – and the joy, oh the moments of joy!

“So where are we called to create culture? At the intersection of grace and the cross. Where do we find our work and play bearing awe-inspiring fruit – and at the same time find ourselves able to identify with Christ on the cross? That intersection is where we are called to dig into the dirt, cultivate and create. . . For my friend Elizabeth the intersection of grace and cross is found in raising three children who sometimes tax her to the very limit, creating a family culture of forgiveness, play and prayer.”

What we create in the family cannot be accomplished by schools, social work, government programs, or any other organization or network the world can offer.

Soldier on, my friends! It’s a great secret that what we make in the home cannot be made anywhere else and is of utmost importance.

Culture Making Part XI: Creators and Cultivators are Free to Critique, Copy, or Condemn

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Last week we discussed various responses to culture and how the only way to change culture is to make more of it. If you don’t like dinner, don’t complain, offer an alternative and make your own.

Let’s dive a bit deeper.

Critiquing is Passive

“The posture of critique also tempts us toward the academic fallacy of believing that once we have analyzed something, we have understood it. Often true understanding, of a person or a cultural good, requires participation – throwing ourselves fully into the enjoyment and experience of someone or something without reserving an intellectual, analytical part of ourselves outside of the experience like a suspicious and watchful librarian.”

I’m reminded of how sometimes observation can kill whatever spontaneous expression or experimentation our kids are engaged in. Are they so used to me delivering judgment that when they see me in the room they know critique is inevitable?

Kids are masters at throwing themselves fully into an experience without judging it first. Surely we must teach them discernment, but maybe we can relearn from them how to fully experience something without constantly judging the activity and ourselves.

For the homeschooler, not everything has to be educational – relax! Fussing too much about attaching educational worth to every activity could kill the very passion and deeper understanding of the world that we desire to teach.

Copying

“We breed a generation that prefers facsimile to reality, simplicity to complexity (for cultural copying, almost by definition, ends up sanding off the rough and surprising edges of any cultural good it appropriates), and familiarity to novelty. Not only is this a generation incapable of genuine creative participation in the ongoing drama of human culture making, it is dangerously detached from a God who is anything but predictable and safe.”

Appreciating a Bach fugue takes more work than tapping along to this week’s top hit. Pizza is easier to like than tabouli salad but it doesn’t mean we’re stuck only sharing the simple with our kids. It’s our job to train them to be able to appreciate the more complex creations of beauty. It may take time, but it’s a worthy – and possible – goal.

Consuming

“[This is] the core premise of consumer culture: we are most human when we are purchasing something someone else has made.”

 

“Of all the possible postures toward culture, consumption is the one that lives most unthinkingly within a culture’s preexisting horizons of possibility and impossibility.”

 

“Consumer culture teaches us to pay exquisite attention to our own preferences and desires. Someone whose posture is consumption can spend hours researching the most fashionable and feature-laden cell phone; can know exactly what combination of espresso shots, regular and decaf, whole and skim, amaretto and chocolate, makes for their perfect latte; can take on extraordinary commitments of debt and commuting time in order to live in the right community. . . [A]ll of this involves care and work [but it isn’t creation or cultivation.] . . . [It] is capitulation: letting the culture set the terms, assuming that the culture knows best and that even our deepest longings and fears have some solution that fits comfortably within our culture’s horizons, if only we can afford to purchase it.”

Freedom to Critique, Copy, or Condemn

There is a time and place for condemning culture, for critiquing culture, for consuming culture and for copying culture. The problem arises when one particular response become so habitual that it is our automatic response.

“[T]he simple truth is that in the mainstream of culture, cultivation and creativity are the postures that confer legitimacy for the other gestures. People who consider themselves stewards of culture – guardians of what is best in a neighborhood, an institution or a field of cultural practice – gain the respect of their peers. Even more so, those who go beyond being mere custodians to creating new cultural goods are the ones who have the world’s attention.”

I’ll end with a few quotes on creation and cultivation. Read the book to discover many more great reasons to be a creator and cultivator!

“Like our first parents [Adam and Eve], we are to be creators and cultivators. Or to put it more poetically, we are artists and gardeners.”

 

“From the beginning, creation requires cultivation, in the sense of paying attention to ordering and dividing what already exists into fruitful spaces. . . This is an important point at a time in history when “creativity” often is associated with the rejection of order and when artists in particular can seem to be trying to outdo one another in provocative acts of chaos making.”

 

“Creation leads to celebration. Creation at its best leaves us joyful, not jaded. It prompts delight and wonder, even in the creators themselves, who marvel at the fruitfulness of their small efforts . . . Creation, even on a human scale is meant to end with the glad exclamation, “It is very good.”

How can we use our talents and cultural power for creating and cultivating with maximum and long-lived results? Next week we’ll discuss the shocking and counterintuitive answer.

Culture Making Part X: How To Influence Culture

“The only way to change culture is to create more of it.”

-Andy Crouch

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Last week we discussed the importance of being a culture keeper if we desire to be a culture maker. This week we’ll discuss a bit more why it’s so important to be a culture keeper and maker if we want to make a difference in the world.

Andy Crouch illustrates the various responses to culture we can have and their relative effectiveness by using the example of making chili for his family.

Crouch and his wife love chili, but their young children do not.

What options do his children have to “change their world” – to change the particular disliked cultural good of chili at dinner time?

Condemning Culture

Most children whine and protest when they don’t like dinner, but we all know that doesn’t change a parent’s mind. This illustrates the idea of “condemning culture,” that is a common response that might make us feel superior, but has little effect on the world.

Critiquing Culture

As kids grow older they grow more sophisticated in their protests. They could argue why green things (like bell peppers) should not mix with red things (like the tomatoes in the chili) and that cooking tomatoes makes them inedible.

We all know children with incredibly creative, if not effective reasoning. There is an important place for critiquing culture, but critique alone won’t change what’s bad out there.

Consuming Culture

After a period of fruitless protesting and arguing, often children stop fighting and eat a little of what’s before them, perhaps after a period of silent sulking. Over time they might grow to like it, or tolerate it, but it certainly won’t reduce the amount of chili served. It’s more likely to increase.

Copying Culture

The chili example doesn’t lend itself well to the idea of copying culture, but when we take the objectionable bits out of a particular cultural good and replace them with something more palatable, our cut-and-paste result is unlikely to be attractive to anyone but our own subculture of folks who already share our values. We won’t touch the mainstream or change the culture we object to.

Creating Culture

“There is one thing our children could do, though, that could have a decisive effect on our family’s culture of the table. If I come home . . . And find dinner already simmering on the stove, even if it’s not chili, I will likely be delighted. Especially if the food being prepared is a substantial improvement on our usual fare, just as tasty and even more creative than I would have prepared myself.”

Crouch points out that each of these responses can be appropriate at certain times. The problem comes when a response becomes habitual.

If we’re always critiquing and never creating, we’re not doing the world any good.

Consuming culture is unavoidable, but if all we ever do is consume, we are giving up our culture power and our ability to make the world a better place.

What part of your family culture do you dislike? Instead of trying to change others, could you create something new that would be an attractive alternative?

For example, instead of yelling “dinner time, go wash your hands and get to the table” and getting the usual sluggish response, I could try singing a particular “eating time” song for a few weeks and see if that doesn’t help with the transition. I hear from my teacher-friends that music helps a great deal with transitions.

Remember, we can’t make culture, we can only make particular cultural goods.

Singing one song is a small cultural good, but it doesn’t take much more breath than complaining that nobody comes to the table on time, and it could have a significant positive impact on our family culture. Hmm, maybe I’ll try it!

Culture Making Part IX: Cultivation And Why The Most Creative People Are Also The Most Disciplined

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I’m super excited to introduce this part of the Culture Making series. Let’s dive in with Crouch’s words:

“We cannot make culture without culture. And this means that creation begins with cultivation – taking care of the good things that culture has already handed on to us. The first responsibility of culture makers is not to make something new but to become fluent in the cultural tradition to which we are responsible.”

“Before we can be culture makers, we must be culture keepers.” -Andy Crouch

Admittedly, “Cultivation is a somewhat less appealing word than creation,” but the fact remains,

“The more each of us knows about our cultural domain, the more likely we are to create something new and worthwhile.”

Cultivation as a Child’s First Job

“In the West it is popular to imagine children as innately creative, since they lack the self-censoring self-awareness that plagues grownups. And children certainly do express their creative drive to make something new of the world from an early age. But childhood is much more fundamentally about imitation than creation. Learning language, learning our culture’s vast store of stories and saying and symbols, learning the meaning of street signs and stop lights, learning the rules of baseball, learning to jump a rope and dribble a basketball – none of these are, strictly speaking, acts of culture making. But they are indispensable acts of culture keeping, and they are necessary if the child is ever to grow up to contribute something to that cultural realm. We can only create where we have learned to cultivate.”

What Cultural Cultivation Looks Like

“Cultivation in the world of culture is not so different from cultivation in the world of nature. One who cultivates tries to create the most fertile conditions for good things to survive and thrive. Cultivating also requires weeding – sorting out what does and does not belong, what will bear fruit and what will choke it out. Cultivating natural things requires long and practiced familiarity with plants and their place; cultivating cultural things requires careful attention to the history of our culture and to the current threats and opportunities that surrounded it. Cultivation is conservative – ensuring that the world we leave behind, whether natural or cultural, contains as least as many possibilities and at least as much excellence as the one we inherited.”

Cultivation, Discipline, and Creativity

“The most demanding forms of cultivation are disciplines – long apprenticeships in the rudiments of a cultural form, small things done over and over that create new capacities in us over time.”

“[I]t is intriguing that the domains we often consider the most “creative” – art and music, for example – require some of the most demanding disciplines.” -Andy Crouch

“[U]nderneath almost every act of culture making we find countless small acts of culture keeping.”

“As small and seemingly insignificant as they are, disciplines can have powerful cultural effects. If I make dinner tonight for my family, nothing much will change in my family’s culture. But if I make dinner tonight, tomorrow night, next Tuesday and for the next fifteen years of our children’s lives, seeking to do so with creativity, skill and grace that grows over time – even if I never become an avant-garde chef and always follow the recipe – that discipline alone will indeed create a powerful family culture with horizons of possibility and impossibility that we may not even now be able to glimpse.”

Cultivate and Create

“With any luck, [our children] will be both culture keepers and culture makers – both cultivators and creators. And then they will be prepared to both conserve culture at its best and change it for the better by offering the world something new.”

This, my friends, is why I care about teaching my kids to love good music, and good food, to learn poetry and read the classics. I care about imparting the world’s cultural heritage to my children because it gives them cultural power to go and make something of their world.

Creativity begins with discipline.

No longer are unschooling (a word that to me represents allowing children to exercise their power and creativity) and classical education (a phrase that to me represents training sharp minds and imparting our cultural legacy) at odds in my mind – they are both fundamental to the health and training of productive, powerful, and peaceful human beings.

What’s your take?

Still not convinced? Next week I’ll dig deeper with Crouch’s arguments, but there simply wasn’t room for it all this time.

Culture Making Part VII: How To Encourage Our Children To Be Makers

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How do we help our children make something of the world?

Last week we discussed the most important way: be a maker yourself!

Here are some other practical ways to increase productive cultural power for our children to encourage their creativity, productivity, and responsibility.

Get Out Of The Way

One way is to get out of the way when our children are making meaning. It’s clear when they are painting that they are being creative, but what about when the 5-year-old dumps water on his dinner then refuses to eat it?

Our son did just that the other day and it turns out that his rice was too hot to eat and he wanted to cool it down. He’d recently watch a few videos on how water puts out fires by reducing the heat of the flame.

He was making meaning. As he had predicted, the water cooled the rice down, but he also learned that it made the food inedible.

Lori Pickert gives some hints on how to build what she calls a “maker culture” for our families in her book Project-Based Homeschooling.

I’ve mentioned before Pickert’s idea of producing what we consume.

“[When children] don’t just passively consume [but] actively produce . . . they take ownership over ideas and work with them, build with them. They take what interests them, what they enjoy, what they love, and they make something new.” – Lori Pickert

This idea takes us a huge step away from the idea that there are good and bad activities or good and bad media, and challenges us to ask what process is going on beyond the surface.

Instead of thinking books are good and movies are bad, notice whether or not a child play-acts his own stories after watching a movie, or shares a scene after reading a book.

Even if we don’t particularly care for Frozen we can appreciate the important work our children are doing when they play-act, draw, make dresses, and otherwise make something of the Frozen world.

A Frozen obsession won’t last forever, but the skills gained in making something of their world will if we choose to appreciate it rather than condemn it.

The Power of Attention

This brings us neatly to another tip of Pickert’s:

Give attention to what you want to grow.

“Think hard about what you value most, because that’s what deserves your attention. Your child will respond by doing more of whatever earns your focus. You feed a behavior with your attention, and by feeding it, you create more of it – so be thoughtful about what you invest with that power.” – Lori Pickert

What we shine the light of our attention on will increase, whether it’s the negative, or the positive.

It’s important to encourage with actions and not words. Make time, space, materials, and support for making and sharing.

Make Making Safer

To help get over the hurdle of starting, think of how you can lower the stakes so that creating and sharing aren’t attached to big risks.

Provide art materials that you won’t get upset about if they are dropped and broken.

Stay calm when you want to scream “What were you thinking?!” in the aftermath of a failed act of making meaning (like water on dinner).

Don’t immediately judge when your child (or spouse!) shares his work with you, rather show genuine interest and ask open-ended questions to learn more about the meaning behind the work.

For details and more concrete ideas, visit www.Project-Based-Homeschooling.com or read the book (it is not at all just for homeschoolers!).

In Short:

A child’s play is often the important work of using their cultural power to make something of the world. We can increase our children’s productive cultural power by getting out of the way when we see it happen, shining the light of our attention on it, and making it safer to venture into creative work.

Did this post inspire other ideas for encouraging and appreciating your child’s work?

 

This is Part VII of the Culture Making series. Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI and Part VIII here.

Culture Making Part VI: Be A Maker Yourself

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So far in our Culture Making series we’ve discovered that nobody makes culture, we make one specific cultural artifact at a time. We cook a meal, we paint a picture, we write a letter.

We can’t make Culture, but every act of creation changes the horizon of what’s possible and impossible.

Nobody has the power and influence to change the whole world. Everyone creates within one or a few culture groups. The most powerful culture group is also the one where we have the most cultural power – the family.

Cultural power is the ability to make something of our world.

What are we making of the world?

How do we help our children make something of the world?

Be A Maker Yourself

Perhaps the most important and effective way foster creativity and making is to model it ourselves.

For most of us, this is anything but easy.

The Courage To Create

At the same time I read Culture Makers I read The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think you’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Dr. Brené Brown.

Like Crouch, Brown connects specific acts of creation with making meaning

“If we want to make meaning, we need to make art. Cook, write, draw, doodle, paint, scrapbook, take pictures, collage, knit, rebuild an engine, sculpt, dance, decorate, act, sing – it doesn’t matter. As long as we’re creating, we’re cultivating meaning.”

Culture Makers gave me solid reasons to create, and Brown’s book gives me the courage to try.

It’s scary being creative! It makes us vulnerable to judgment. Dr. Brown understands this. Here are a few quotes to whet your appetite. I recommend book whole-heartedly.

“There’s no such thing as creative people and non-creative people. There are only people who use their creativity and people who don’t.”

 

“Creativity, which is the expression of our originality, helps us stay mindful that what we bring to the world is completely original and cannot be compared. And without comparison, concepts like ahead or behind or best or worst lose their meaning.”

I love the idea that value-judgment words lose their meaning. They aren’t just things we’re supposed to avoid saying, as though we’re sweeping truth under the rug, they just aren’t relevant any more. Words of comparison and judgment are important in other places, not here.

“When we value being cool and in control over granting ourselves the freedom to unleash the passionate, goofy, heartfelt, and soulful expressions of who we are, we betray ourselves. When we consistently betray ourselves, we can expect to do the same to the people we love. When we don’t give ourselves permission to be free, we rarely tolerate that freedom in others.”

 

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” -Howard Thurmann

What will you make today?

Remember, everyone has a different amount of cultural power. Don’t focus on what you don’t have, focus on what you DO have and run with it.

While our example is the most important ingredient, next week we’ll discuss more concrete ideas on how to encourage our kids to make something of their world.

This is Part VI of the Culture Making series. Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part VPart VII, and Part VIII here.

Enchantment: Encouragement for the Worn-Out Mom

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I’ve been sick and discouraged, feeling guilty about all the things I’m not doing for my kids.

Each time I hear of a friend or acquaintance whose kids are doing something we’ve never done I get a sinking feeling in my stomach.

I write a blog on how we can’t and shouldn’t do everything, but I still feel oppressed by the idea that I’m failing my kids.

So this week I bring you some encouragement from the outside. Thanks to my friend, Monica, who pointed me to this periscope by Julie Bogart at www.BraveWriter.com.

Since listening to this I’ve enjoyed my kids more than I have in recent memory – and if you follow this blog you know how hard it is for me to enjoy my family when there is work to be done (and there always is!). She said when you get a moment of peace don’t make it harder (time to get to work!), just breathe it in and enjoy it. So simple, but I’d forgotten it!

Here are a few quotes to entice you, but I recommend listening to the whole thing if you get a chance.

“When our kids are enchanted they are quiet . . . And because they’re quiet we might mistake the moment. We might think they’re not engaged.” (24:20)

On why “Enchantment” matters:

“People who are richly satisfied and whole on the inside are insatiably curious and open to learning.” (31:15)

Julie Bogart reminded me that a perfect house is not compatible with enchantment. If you strive for perfection you kill the magic. She quotes Thomas Moore in The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life:

“A home will never be perfect, for perfection is an idea and an ideal, and our home is always an approximation of our dream. I wouldn’t want to live in a perfect home, because enchantment and perfection do not lie in the same order of things. If you’re looking for perfection, you don’t pursue enchantment, and vice versa.” (Moore, l996 p. 82)

I’ve decided to lower my hopes (standards make it sound as if I achieve it) for a clean house, but I’ve also implemented a compromise:

I did a quick purge of the bedroom and will make it my “clutter-free haven.” If I can have one space that is peaceful then I think I’ll better be able to enjoy the mess that is having kids!

So give yourself some encouragement and listen to the periscope! Then come back and tell us how it inspired you.

Note: You don’t have to know anything about periscope, just click the link and you’ll see the video. Also, she’s talking to homeschoolers, but what she says applies to anyone who is intentional about raising kids – which is all of you who read this blog!

The Cost of Creativity: 9 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Want Creative Kids

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Fostering creativity in children seems to be all the rage these days.

I’m not buying all the hype.

Here are nine reasons why I don’t want my kids to be creative:

  1. It’s messy. The other day my three-year-old pulled out the plastic decorative grass between my sushi, said “It’s a crown!” and proceeded to put it on the 1-month-old’s head. Yes, raw fish on the baby’s head is the result of young creativity.
  2. It’s risky. Creativity knows no bounds, you never know where you’ll end up. First they paint on the paper you give them, then they find your stack of bills and paint on that, then they paint the walls and driveway . . .
  3. It’s dangerous. Creative kids tinker. They have no fear. Put “tinker” and “electricity” in the same sentence and you’ll understand why I don’t want creative kids.
  4. It’s expensive. The trouble with real art supplies is that they are expensive and kids keep coming back for more, which results in a feedback loop of creativity followed by the need for buying more art supplies. Fortunately there is an easy and cheap solution to this. Buy cheap art supplies. Kids get so frustrated with them not working properly and breaking that they give up creating. Poor art supplies are not only cheap, they last the whole childhood! Double win.
  5. It’s time consuming. It takes an hour to walk half a block with creative kids. They somehow see infinite potential in a pile of stones. Each one is unique, so no stone can be left unturned.
  6. It’s uncertain. The creative path isn’t charted and there’s no instruction manual. I don’t know where we’re going or how to get there but I am still held responsible should anything bad happen to my kids!
  7. It’s maddening. Creative kids think of creative ways to obey the letter of the law while flouting its spirit. As in, “I didn’t throw the truck, I just dropped it off the table!”
  8. It’s heartbreaking. Creative kids fail. They try out many ideas and most of them fail. As a parent, I hate watching my kids fail. I’d rather do things for them and save them the agony, though strangely enough they don’t seem to mind failing as much as I do.
  9. It’s humbling. My kids might show me up and have a more successful life than I do.

So before you jump on the “creative kids” bandwagon, be sure you count the cost!

Have a reason I missed? Please share!

Creativity in Family Life: The Possibilities are Endless

Last week we introduced the fourth and last step in the Four Actions Framework: Create.

Creation is the key aspect that makes each Blue Ocean family uniquely attractive and successful so it’s also the perfect place to encourage each other in Blue Ocean building.

Creating something new is also less likely to cause social stress than raising or reducing an element common to most families. An activity uniquely tailored to our own family doesn’t lend itself well to direct comparison, so with it we can build our Blue Oceans with less temptation to slip into the Red Ocean mentality.

It doesn’t mean society will approve of us. We’re still breaking out from the norm, which is always difficult for society to accept, but our creative additions are less of a direct threat to existing standards, and thus slightly easier to tolerate.

There are so many ways families can create without causing any trouble to anyone else. Here are the ideas we came up with together over the week. Thanks for your input!

  • Create family traditions – Family traditions aren’t just fun, they serve an important function in binding the family together (and don’t underestimate the power of wacky!)
  • Support the unique interests of our children – really listen to what they share and provide materials and opportunities for them to blossom
  • Pursue our own interests – we may think personal work is not as valuable as our family responsibilities, yet if we take time for an activity that energizes us we’ll have more to give back to our families and our children will see our model of active engagement and self-initiative
  • Support our spouses in their their interests outside of work
  • Make homemade decorations and clothes; play music together; tend a garden – the things we make together can bless our home, be full of meaning to us and pose no threat or pressure to others to create the same thing
  • Pick and choose ideas from other sources “like flowers from many gardens to make unusual bouquets”
  • Recraft an unquestioned norm, like the yearly vacation. Ask questions like “What’s the main purpose?” “Do we achieve that purpose when we participate?” If not, why not, and what alternative could serve that main purpose better – or is that main purpose something we don’t personally care about? It may turn out that taking a weekend every month to do an activity the kids have been asking to do is more refreshing and builds family togetherness better than a stressful two-week Disney vacation. Note: This idea combines all four actions steps together: eliminate, reduce, raise and create.

Please share your own ideas!

Blue Ocean Creation Step Four: Create

We’re nearly finished with our first look at the steps in the Four Actions Framework. So far we have examined Eliminate, Reduce, and Raise. One might expect that “add” comes next, but I love the choice of “create” to complement the “eliminate” of step one.

Create, make something new, break boundaries, be unfettered in shaping your family culture. This call to action is not about picking and choosing from a line of offerings, it is about finding our own voice and making something out of the scraps we have that has never been done before.

Don’t worry about being original, though. I love this quote about how creativity and authenticity is not the same as originality.

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.” -Jim Jarmusch

Let’s take our authenticity and creativity to our families where they can have the biggest impact. It’s true family can be harshly, if innocently, critical, as when my three-year-old told me ”Mommy, your bottom is too big,” but they are also innocently appreciative of our attempts to bring beauty and meaning into daily life, as when that same three-year-old enjoys reciting the King James Version of Psalm 24 with us.

Where do you see potential for creativity in family life?

Please share in the comments (or contact me) and next week I’ll compile a list of all our ideas.