I've been spending a lot of time recently trying to decide whether I just made an enormous parenting mistake. I simply cannot decide whether I've totally blown it or done something really great. And I'm kind of sick over it. Here's the background: Star Sisters and the Best Seller is about a spirited little girl who spends her days drawing in the galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The whole time I was writing this book, I was picturing my oldest daughter as the main character, K.J. K.J. and my daughter share a lot of wonderful qualities: they're both very determined, rather spunky, and are incredibly talented artists. In the book, K.J. does a series of drawings that catch the eye of a publisher. While most of the book will be illustrated by my awesome illustrator, Annie Zimanski, I thought it would be a great idea to have my daughter do the illustrations that are supposed to be K.J.'s work. After all, why have Annie try and draw like a little girl when I have an actual little girl who loves to draw?
When I asked my daughter if she wanted to do this, she was so excited. She got out her pencils and immediately started sketching. We exchanged some ideas (ie. I gave her some suggestions, she ignored them, I tried to keep my cool) and she banged out some pretty great drawings. She even added some details that I worked into the manuscript. Then she started to lose interest and declared that she was done. In my opinion, these drawings were not done. Not to go all Tiger Mom here, but they weren't her best work. I knew she could do better. The girl's brain is programmed differently, she can interpret things on paper in stunning ways that blow my mind. So I started to explain why she needed to keep working, but then I stopped myself. The problem was mine, not hers. She was happy with her work, it was actually very good, and I realized I needed to let her be even if I knew she could do better.
Thinking about this whole exchange, I'm worried that asking her to do these drawings was not my best parenting move. I'm an adult, I'm okay with putting my work out there and taking whatever criticism or praise comes from it. I can revise and revise until I've practically memorized my work because I know that's what I need to do to feel comfortable. But she's a child - an incredibly talented child who dreams of being an artist (with a side career as an ice skater, ballerina, and horseback rider). What if some other kid makes fun of her drawings? Drawings that I put out into the world with her permission, but without her really knowing the full ramifications of putting her work into print. The thought slays me. Or should I think about this the other way; that maybe seeing her work in a book will be nothing but a huge source of pride for her. Something that she looks back on with a smile when she's writing her application to art school. Or am I just overthinking this whole thing? Is putting her work in my book the same thing as her art teacher hanging her work in the hallways with her name stapled below?
I don't know. But there's a lot I don't know when it comes to parenting. I just have to go with my gut, and right now my gut tells me that it's pretty cool to be seven years-old and have your drawings printed in a book alongside a real illustrator who you greatly admire. But I still have a few weeks before we go to print. I'm sure I'll spend that time worrying some more, because I'm a mom and that's what I do.