Pottery and Parenting – at first glace, two things that don’t seem to be related; however, I just finished my first set of lessons and I found parallels between pottery and parenting every step of the way, prompting me to look at both topics in a new light.
Children are like clay. A child and a lump of clay start out very similar – full of promise. Just as you have some ideas about what clay could turn into, in the beginning a child is essentially a blank canvas. Who or what they turn into is up to the potter and the parent.
It takes preparation before you can begin to create. In pottery, this is known as the kneading stage. You must make sure there are no air bubbles or lumps in the clay before you begin to shape it, otherwise you will have any number of problems. Children require care and preparation too – you must make sure their basic needs are met before you worry about shaping their creativity.
Centering is the key to success. Centering the clay perfectly in the middle of the throwing wheel is the most important step. If you do not take the time to center properly, the clay may fly off the wheel and you will have to start again. If it stays on the wheel, you will be struggling with an off-center piece of clay the entire time; despite your best efforts, you will probably end up with a misshapen and slumped version of your original goal.
Just like the spinning pottery wheel, the world our children are growing up with can seem to spin fast, sometimes seemingly out of control. Creating a stable center is important for their success. This might be creating a safe home environment where creativity is encouraged and it is okay to make mistakes. It might be teaching children how to find their own center through affirmations and self-reflections. Having a stable environment makes growing and practicing creativity much easier.
To be successful, you must be stable. In pottery your hands must be stable at all times. The left and right hands must not only know what the other is up to, they must work together as one unit. As soon as your hands separate, you will start to have problems. Whether you are parenting alone or with another, it is important to always be communicating and on the same page. This also includes drawing in the other people in your life such as relatives and caregivers so everyone is working towards a stable, creative environment. Just as a potter creates a stable environment with their hands to allow the clay to take shape, parents must provide the same stability for their children.
Patience is important. Both in pottery and raising children, it is our desire to see results fast. When we rush is when things usually go wrong. You need to discover the speed that works best for you and your child, just like a potter can choose how fast the wheel spins. It’s tempting to go faster, but if you pay close attention the child or clay will tell you exactly how fast you need to be going.
Pressure is a balancing act. There are times when shaping your pottery where you will need to apply more pressure, and there are times when you must apply less. This is just like parenting and it takes a lot of practice to know how much pressure is enough. When you are drawing up the clay to make a bowl or cylinder you must use a light but firm hand. If you get impatient or heavy handed your clay will collapse, or you will tear it or poke a hole in it. Children need enough pressure to keep them motivated and on the right track without being overwhelmed.
You learn through experience. Potting, like parenting, isn’t something you perfect right away. It takes a lot of practice, patience, and perseverance. You will make mistakes, get messy, and have unexpected results. Some days will bring success, and there will be others where no matter what you do it just won’t work. Both potting and parenting are creative journeys.
Both Children and Clay have great memories. Clay has physical memory. Once clay is worked into a position, it remembers – the particles in the clay align and when you remove it from the wheel it will try to retain its shape – handy if it gets bumped or misshapen in the moving process. Children are much the same way. They have great memories for both the positive and negative while they are growing up, which is why a careless word or action can have a life-long affect. This is also why if you spend time developing your child’s creativity and give them the skills and tools they need, they will be able to fall back on these experiences when life hands them their own jolts and bumps.
Character is a lot like glaze. When you glaze a piece of pottery, you only have a rough idea of how it will turn out. The final look of a glaze depends on the clay, temperature, thickness, and many other factors. Just as you choose the glaze for your pottery piece, you choose the values, skills and behaviors you pass on to your children. You can make predictions and educated guesses, but you will never know quite how everything will come together. This uniqueness makes pottery and parenting both a challenge and a lot of fun!
Trial by fire shows your character. You can do everything in your power to make a strong piece of pottery or a strong child. You can prepare them, give them everything they need to succeed, work on the flaws and soften the sharp edges, but you will not fully realize the results of your work until it has undergone a transformative experience. For pottery this means going into a kiln to bake at incredibly hot temperatures. When this is done your pottery comes out finished and usable – and often not quite like you expected. For children this might be a life-altering event, an unexpected challenge, or just “growing up.” Experiences and how we respond to them show our true colors and strength. Just as a potter prepares a blob of clay and creates a masterpiece, so do parents with their children, every single day.
I hope you have enjoyed reading my post on pottery and parenting parallels. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments. Have a wonderful day!