Cady Gray came into the living room where her dad and I were watching Project Runway, bearing a gift. "I figured out how to use those big pieces of paper," she told me -- referring to large newsprint sheets that had cushioned our Ikea furniture this summer, and were so unblemished and smooth that I put them in her room for arts-and-crafts purposes.
She flourished a large origami star from behind her back. "It was rectangular, so I had to give it a little trim to make it square," she pointed out. Then, without warning, as if she had just thought of it: "I'm going to color it."
Fifteen minutes later she was back. "This side -- colored," she demonstrated. "This side blank. You can color this side. You can use my coloring as a guide if you want. Or you can use your own creativity."
"Interactive. I like it!" I praised her.
"Yes. You can participate!" she enthused. "Here, I'll sign it right under this flap. And I'll leave a space. If you color it, you can sign it, too."
The more I think about it, the more my praise doesn't seem empty. It's a generous gesture to open up a space where another person can be a part of your creation. For Cady Gray, audience participation or partnership isn't just a nice extra. It's an essential part of the joy she gets from creating.
I think I've molded her in that direction, too. Whenever she asked me to come to her room to see a building she'd made or a Tinkertoy gadget she'd invented, I would make a suggestion or ask if I could explore. Her self-appointed role as a gracious host led her to agree enthusiastically and integrate my contribution into her description or construction.
It's a short step from that kind of interactivity to sharing the stage and the credit for creative expression. I love this impulse in my daughter. She's both confident of her own artistic worth and eager to pass along the praise to others, even to the point of encouraging them by leaving them a blank space to fill with their own ideas. If she becomes a teacher, as is her childhood desire, this attitude will serve her well. But it's wonderful -- both functional and beautiful -- no matter what kind of work she ends up doing.