Letting them fail

In case you missed it, I posted on the Scary Mommy blog this week. You can check out my post, How to Raise a Kid on 6 Hours of TV a Day but I warn you, it’s not a pretty method.

Despite Georgia’s long hours of daily television (she’s bored and I’m lazy and busy and her dolls nap a lot) when 2:15 hits the TV goes off for the rest of the day and I switch into full-time piano teaching, chore wrangling, taxi driving, mommy mode. Swing shift–every mother’s most crucial time of day.

Last week the kids finished their work early and we had no after school obligations to attend so the girls decided to set up shop in front of our house selling “free pictures.”

June. She’s insanely creative and artistic and has been planning this picture selling business for days. Is it bad that I tried to dissuade her? I can’t stand the thought of watching her hard work go unappreciated and I don’t know enough people here to call my neighbors and ask them to help her out. But she was determined and I’m not about to keep her from anything.

I parked myself on the couch with a tall cold drink and a book, watching from the window as cars drove by and no one stopped by buy a free picture from June. I could hear them from inside the house touting their wares, it brought back so many memories. We made the seasonal attempt to sell lemonade on our old country road growing up but since there were only four houses left after the farm business was pretty bad.

As soon as they were in business Rex scoured my kitchen and stole the last of our apples so he could start his own mini shop. I say mini because he sold his apples from a little foot stool. He cut them himself, then found some popsicle sticks from the art bin and cracked them into smaller pieces so he could spear his apples with crude caveman handles.

photo 1

photo 3  photo 2photo 5















Okay, we know pictures aren’t my strong suit and the unfocussed apple is mostly tacky but I had to show you.

They stayed outside until the sun was almost set and no one bought any of June’s pictures. Rex, however, did have one lucky customer who asked how much his apples cost and he said, “Oh! Well, they cost whatever you want to pay for them!” He then sold the world’s most expensive brown apple slice for 75 cents. Go that neighbor.

But watching June’s shoulders droop with the setting sun was painful. How can you explain to a six-year-old that there’s nothing harder to sell than art? I sat observing this process from my couch for over an hour. It was riveting.

What is it about watching your child try something new without your help and protection that is so freaking terrifying? Because that’s how I felt. My heart was beating and my stomach was upset and I couldn’t take my eyes off the entrepreneurs in the front yard. Every time a car drove past her without stopping I died a little inside. It made me panicky.

She was failing and I couldn’t save her.

June draws me pictures every single day, I’m not a valid customer. I couldn’t even tempt her with money because she wanted to sell them for free to make the world more beautiful. I’m serious. She wanted to give pictures away to make people happy.

And no one stopped. No one looked. Even the apple lady ignored the pictures.

So I did the only thing a mommy can do when her kids are trying to grow up and she can’t keep them from learning tough lessons.

I told her that cookies sell better than art and next time, she can bake cookies.

Funny how once again the very thought of a cookie saved the day.






  1. my heart was in my throat over this one. Poor June. I would’ve driven by if I lived anywhere close to you. We’re heading up to Utah over spring break though so if she wants to do one then there’ll be three of us in the car & we Love free, beautiful art! Plus, there’s a grandma & grandpa we’re driving up to see & they love free art too.

  2. This is one of the hardest things to do as a parent–watching your kids take on something you have a distinct feeling isn’t going to go well at all. But as difficult as it is, learning to fail (I hate that word) does teach them lessons. I don’t know of too many entrepreneurs whose money-making venture was the first one they tried. So go, June! Your next one is bound to be a success!

  3. Kristen Harmon says:

    Dear June,

    My husband is an artist for Dreamworks (they made Kung Fu Panda, How To Train Your Dragon… movies like that), so I know good art when I see it. Here’s the thing– I’ve fallen so in love with two of your paintings. They’d look great at my place. Could I buy two of them? (Would that be too greedy? I don’t want to steal too many of them). I love the Rainbow and the Pink Dots. They all are wonderful, but I have two perfect places for those ones. If your mom can email me, I’ll give her our address and I’ll send along my payment… I may even have my husband drop in a doodle of his own.
    Thanks June. Your art is really beautiful.