Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. – Picasso

As the end of the school year approaches, I’m grateful that our daughters have managed to learn enough in 2nd and 4th grades so that they get to advance to 3rd and 5th, respectively. There was a time, however, when this wasn’t good enough. When the idea of being normal was unsatisfactory. That my children, by God, were going to be superstars of academia – even if it killed us. Yeah, that ego trip lasted all of about a year. According to teachers, our children aren’t academically gifted. Yes, they score high enough on blanket testing to rank toward the top of the state averages, but they’re no prodigies. Not in academics, anyway. They’re just normal kids who really enjoy being kids. And as it turns out, that’s pretty beautiful.

Since becoming parents, my wife and I have done everything possible to ensure that our daughters explore their fertile imaginations to their fullest potential. And so far, I believe we’ve succeeded. Give our kids a driveway and some chalk, and they’re lost for hours in worlds that can only exist in the minds of those willing to risk walking on the outside edges of reality. It’s a tender place, that. You’ve got to tread delicately.

Lately, though, there’s been a shift. And we knew it was coming. Many of their friends are beyond the ‘childhood imagination’ stage. Indeed, some of the things their friends say make me wonder whether they’d ever been encouraged to explore their imaginations – and if their parents just figured it was easier to yank the curtain back to set their kids right and disprove any magical nonsense. So, for as much as we’ve always insulated our children from the harmful effects of the grown up world, that world is now encroaching faster than we can buffer them from it. And it’s coming from their peers. Of course it is. It always does.

So, as another school year comes to an end, I can’t help but wonder whether this will be the last summer I’ll get to keep my beauties under my wings, shielding them from the turbulent grown up world that swirls around us.

The most destructive part of a tectonic plate is at the edge. Change like this is hard. Maybe I’ll tell our daughters that one day, they’ll value their imaginations more than any other gift they have. Because, once you leave it behind, you never go back the same way.


jim mitchem

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When Advertising is Evil

Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.