Art night

I was an art major, so of course when I found out the kids’ school was having a completely free Art Night, I insisted we attend. I figured my oldest, who loves drawing and art in general, would enjoy it, and the other kids would benefit, too. And I really wanted to see what Cadillac would make, because he doesn’t often have the opportunity to be artistic.

At the event, you could choose to do a Van Gogh-inspired piece, a Klee inspired piece, or another piece by someone else who I already forgot. I knew they were going to do Van Gogh and that is what we focused on.

The event had a couple of things going against it, which may have contributed to the following story and my children’s attitudes:
1. It was 100 degrees that day, despite being October, and the night did not cool off. The room was very hot.
2. It was 7 o’clock and the kids were tired.

Our son, having been forced to sit down and be relatively quiet until things got underway, got bored before it even started. “Can we go home yet?” he asked, as he does at pretty much every event where he cannot do exactly as he likes.

The art lady showed us what to do, and we being Dilloways began working ahead before she’d really demonstrated it. We were to make the tree in the foreground first.

For a moment I wanted to rebel a little bit. Maybe I should do a Starry Night INSPIRED piece, instead of trying to replicate Starry Night. It would fail on canvas; surely it would fail on construction paper. Maybe I should do Hawaiian Starry Night, with a palm tree on a beach instead of a cypress or whatever that tree is, on a hillside.

If I’d been doing this on my own, I might have experimented. And even though the art lady welcomed experimentation and wasn’t hovering about making sure we all did what she said, I wanted to get with the program and not mess up my one piece of construction paper, besides.

My son was done first, having just made tiny pencil drawings in white. “I’m done. Can we go?”

I made him do the swirls in the sky. “Fill up the paper! The whole paper!”

Eldest was grumpy. “It’s not right. It looks terrible.”

“Try some purple in the sky,” I suggested, having just tried it.

She did. “That made it worse.”  She smeared at it with her fingers.

Little Girl began crying.   “It’s not pretty!  It’s not pretty like my sister’s.”  She got purple pastel all over her cheeks. Cadillac drew a church for her before she completely melted down.

“Are we ready to go NOW?”  my son asked.

I was regretting ever having come. Sometimes it does seem like no good deed goes unpunished, especially if you’re trying to be a good parent and provide Important Cultural and Social Opportunities.  Like the time we dragged the kids to Iolani Palace on the free day and they acted like we were imprisoning them*.

I listened to the kids around us who were not related. “It looks awful,” I heard another boy say. “I do better when there are no rules.” Another parent told me her kid was near a meltdown, too, due to the later hour. Was I a little relieved to hear that my kids were not the only ones? Yes. Because apparently it’s normal for kids to get bored, to be a perfectionist, to break down if you’re in kindergarten.

I was relieved because sometimes people don’t tell the truth about their kids. Like when you’re a new parent and everyone tells you *their* babies began sleeping for 10 hours straight at 2 weeks old and could read the alphabet by 12 months, and then your kid has colic for like 72 hours and you don’t sleep for four months and they take a huge volcanic poo at JC Penney that makes women literally run, gagging, out of the bathroom; and you think, My God. I am the Worst Parent Ever. And then another parent tells you that their kid did the same thing, only at the Vatican or something, and now he’s building schools in Afghanistan. Then you feel better.



Little Girl’s



*Imprisoned like Queen Liluokalani, the last monarch of Hawaii. She was imprisoned in the only palace on U.S. soil, we said as we forced them to look at the artifacts. (To be fair, Eldest enjoyed the visit and did not complain). The palace can also be seen on the old Hawaii Five-O as the police station. Now when you go in, you have to wear scuff protectors over your shoes, and kids are supposed to be over the age of five.

Published by Margaret Dilloway

Middle grade and women's fiction novelist. FIVE THINGS ABOUT AVA ANDREWS, (Balzer + Bray 2020); SUMMER OF A THOUSAND PIES. MOMOTARO: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters (Disney Hyperion); TALE OF THE WARRIOR GEISHA and SISTERS OF HEART AND SNOW, out now from Putnam Books. HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE was a finalist for the John Gardner fiction award. THE CARE AND HANDLING OF ROSES WITH THORNS is the 2013 Literary Tastes Best Women's Fiction Pick for the American Library Association. Mother of three children, wife to one, slave to a cat, and caretaker of the best overgrown teddy bear on Earth, Gatsby the Goldendoodle.

2 thoughts on “Art night

  1. I always like hearing about difficult kids. Makes me feel like mine are normal.

    I felt this way also when I was engaged. People would talk of the perfect things their husbands to be would do. Meanwhile I was getting grumpier because mine didn’t help me plan anything except choose the DJ (and I had to still hand him all my research on that).

  2. I’m impressed with Eldest’s drawing, it’s very good! Having very little artistic talent myself, I can identify with Little Girl. And I’d rebel at being told what to draw, but I suppose the exercise was structured so that everyone was doing the same drawing, and it’d be interesting to see the differences, how different people interpret the same thing.

    I think that it was held a little late in the evening for kids, but I guess they wanted to have it after people had their dinner. It sounds like a good way to spend an evening though-would you go again if they have it again?

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