Holding Back the World

Photo: Sumi-nagashi paper marbling done at camp last week.

I want to start this post with a little shout-out to art teachers and science teachers. Back in my past life, when I was a history teacher, my favorite people to hang out with were in the science department. Maybe it’s because nerds love to hang with nerds, I dunno… but I found myself in the science classrooms more than a few times. I watched those women work so hard to prep labs and experiments and regular ol’ lessons… and I’d watch and marvel (and sometimes, feebly, lend a hand). In the end, I could never fully wrap my head around just how much it took to get stuff ready class after class, to conserve enough materials so every kiddo got a chance to interact with the lesson, to make sure everything was set up just so, every time, multiple times a day.

I taught paper marbling at camp for the last two weeks: trays full of water, special dye, paint brushes, card stock, pencils, a place for work to dry… Every 40 minutes, a new group, with only 10 minutes to reset the entire room before the next group came in. When the kiddie camp (that’s the 3 and 4 year-olds) came in, I had to completely move everything from the lab tables to the desks, covering everything with paper and praying no ink splattered on clothing or all over the gorgeous science lab I was in.

It was not teaching science. Not by any stretch. But I couldn’t help but think about those women I used to work with and loved and admired. I thought about them all week while my back and feet hurt and my clothes got ink on them… and as I marveled at the camper’s work and felt the deep satisfaction of watching many of them really get the art and do well with it.

This week, I’m back to “specialty” camp. I’m co-teaching a needle arts camp with my dear friend and crafting partner. We’ve got 5 lovely girls, an air-conditioned room, a whole lot of adorable fabric, and long days to stitch away… what could be better than that? And yet, it’s still teaching, and teaching is still work. It’s been interesting having to explain, in fine detail, how to do things I’ve been doing since age 10 or so. How to thread a needle, perform a running stitch, cut from a template, construction from a pattern… to be patient, to be helpful… It’s going to be an interesting week. I’m excited about stretching my brain in new ways.

Last week, I wanted to write so much, but my site was acting funky. I’m happy to say that a fix was found thanks to the wonderful support team at Agathon, my hosting company. If any of you are bloggers ready to jump to hosted service, you really should look them up. They are wonderful, always.

I desperately wanted to write last week because the boys absolutely blew my mind last Friday. Last week was rock & roll week at camp, with a big lip-sync performance at the end of the week. All week, the lip-sync was all anyone could talk about. I’m not going to lie, I had knots in my stomach about it. I wanted absolutely nothing to do with it. As a member of the staff, I had to participate, as much as I didn’t want to… but I kept my anxiety to myself because I didn’t want to spook the boys. The boys…. they didn’t talk about lip-sync much. I thought for sure that Ursa Minor, especially, was feeling nervous about it. I kept waiting for the breakdown… the “I don’t want to go to camp on Friday” talk. Born to two very shy parents, I thought for sure the introvert genes would trigger in their brains and they’d both get cold feet and want to run away.

Instead, Ursa Minor did a breakdance in the middle of his performance.

And Ursa Major, bringing his real life electric guitar as “a secret weapon” had a solo moment with his instrument during his performance.

And they were both, for about 2 hours on Friday, legen-wait for it-dary.

Ursa Minor, especially, came out of nowhere and blew us all way! Dear Reader, I’m talkin’ spinning on the floor breakdancing in the middle of his group in the middle of this performance. You have to believe me! I wish I could post the photos (there are photos!) but there are a bunch of kids in the photos who aren’t mine and I don’t want to post them to the interwebs. But you gotta believe me! This is a thing that happened!

I still can’t look at either of them the same way. Who are these babies? Where did they come from? How are they my children? Who taught them how to do that?

This afternoon in the car (driving to McDonald’s because we didn’t leave the pool into 6….*Sigh*), I say to my boys: “You two are very lucky little boys. You’re having the best summer ever.”

To which Minor replied: “Well, you two parents are pretty lucky, too. Because you got super good boys who are smart and creative and geniuses.”

I chuckled, despite myself… humility isn’t something the child has picked up yet. “Well, I hope you see how hard your parents are working for you so you can be these great children you are. We’re holding back the whole wide world so you can be who you are and turn out to be who you will turn out to be.”

There was a silence to this. Then Minor asked: “Are you really doing that? Holding back the world? Like the world is just, like, pushing in on us like walls or something?”

“Child, you have no idea.”


Silence again.

“It’s hard work, but it’s really good work. And we do it because we love you. Very, very much.”

And it’s true. I’m exhausted, Dear Reader. Workin’ camp is young people’s work. 🙂 But my kids had guitar and breakdance solos on Friday. They’re having the best summer ever. What could possibly be a better use of my time?

It is hot, and the world is mean, and things are feeling bleak. I hope someone is holding back the world to make room for you, Dear Reader. And I hope you are holding back the world to make room for someone else as well. I know it takes so much, but I also know that it’s worth it.

See you Friday for Quiet Thoughts.

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