A little while ago, we were having a discussion when a preschooler asked us to print out a picture for her so she could colour. When she was colouring in the teachers' room, she asked out loud.
'Teacher A, I like drawing and colouring. So my parent sends me for art classes. But when I tell her I want to grow up and be an artist, she tells me artists don't make money. Why does she send me for art classes when she doesn't want me to be an artist?'
Teacher A, 'Oh darling, I am sure your mommy didn't mean what she said. You can be anything you want to be.'
It is a classic encouraging adult answer that is dished out to our children when we i) don't want a long discussion, ii) don't think they know any better or iii) don't want to say anything that may be misconstrued when the child repeats it to the parents.
I watched the child frown as she tried to reconcile what the teacher said and what she couldn't understand. She wasn't satisfied with the answer.
'Come here, B. Let me explain to you what your mommy meant,' I said and beckoned her over to me.
'An artist creates pieces of art and sells the art to make money. Art is not something we buy everyday like food. The price of the art fluctuates too, because the value is subjective. When an artist starts out, he/she may not fetch as much money for his/her work. But when he/she becomes popular, his/her work may fetch a lot of money. There are many people who want to be artists and they try their hand to be one. But few persevere when the going gets tough, few become famous and fetch high price for their work. Therefore, we see more data of low salary and few data of high salary, the average pay for an artist is low. This is what your mommy means when she says 'an artist doesn't earn much money'. Your Mommy loves you and worries for you when that future poses high uncertainty in income.' I explained to her.
'What if I become really good?' the preschooler asked me.
I smiled. Most children amaze me with their ingenue and natural confidence. Until the society chips away at it and plants seeds of self-doubt which blossoms to a limiting belief in adulthood.
'Yes, if you persevere with your talent, you can become really good. This is why Mommy may worry about you being an artist but still send you for art classes now. This is because we cannot let what we observe immediately limits us from chasing our dreams. You may become an artist, you may become a race car driver who happens to be very good at drawing. You can be an artistic chef. Who says that there is only one option? This is what teacher A means, you can be anything you want to be.'
This time, she was satisfied with the answer.
I don't think I told her white lies nor gave her false hopes.
Imagination is the ability to see beyond reality. Creativity is deriving ideas from our imagination. Innovation is when we persevere and bring these ideas to outcomes.
What may be a lie is telling the child to believe in reality and letting her believe what WE see now would be the limit of her future.