The many faces of Mom
Whether you're an animated Muppet of a mom or a quietly shy flower of motherhood, it's always interesting to find out how your kids see you. The heavier mom with more to love might be portrayed with pop culturally perfect proportions when described by her child. The shy mom who stays off everyone's radar screen and never interacts with the other moms in social settings may be drawn with a face-breaking smile and described as "hilarious."
My kids tell me I'm beautiful. While I wouldn't say I'm repulsive, I'm certainly not getting a call from Victoria's Secret to hit the runway any time soon. I wasted the one chance I get in life to keep a decent body, and I've never been the prettiest girl in a group. I'm not fishing for compliments - I'm just average, and I know it. I need to lose weight and hit the gym, but you can't tell my kids that. If you ask them, it would be a tragedy for me to lose weight or work out because then I wouldn't be their "fluffy Mama." They honestly see my softness and weight as a plus because it is comforting to them when they need snuggles. Plus, my husband would die a thousand screamingly tortured deaths if I were to lose any of this roundly romantic figure, so maybe it's not that bad.
Whatever works, I guess.
Through the eyes of a child
Kids see their parents through uniquely filtered eyes which allow them to focus solely on their own definitions of importance. With this thought in mind, I asked each of my girls to draw a picture of me. There were no special instructions. Just draw a picture of me. I didn't know if I would get a picture of my dancing in the car, of my taking care of the household chores, of my getting onto them about not cleaning their room or of who knows what else. It was a little scary actually. I really wanted to see SuperMom in the pictures but was afraid I would see SuperFAIL Mom instead.
My oldest has always drawn me taller than the other people in the picture and almost always draws a dress for me to wear. However, other people have become equally, if not more, important in her life in recent years, so I was interested to see if her portrayal of me remained constant. My middle child has only recently graduated from stick figures, so I wasn't sure what I would get from her. She's such an emotionally driven little comedian that I couldn't possibly predict what direction she would go with the assignment. My youngest is only two, so I didn't expect much from her, but I certainly couldn't leave her out.
I was quite pleased with what they drew. We're attempting to raise our girls in an environment that fosters creative expression, but somehow these little ones just get it. Or maybe it's just that kids don't overthink things. Either way, it was pretty rockin' awesome to see their work!
They weren't given much time to complete the assignment. As they were getting ready for bed, I asked them to come into the kitchen and bring paper and something with which to draw. The oldest stressed about the assignment.
"What do you want me to draw? Can you sit down with us so I can look at you? How do you want me to draw you? How much time do I have? Can I stay up late to work on it?"
* SIGH * She is such a rules-driven child.
The middle child just asked if she could get a picture of me to look at while she drew. When I told her, "No," she shrugged and took off drawing without hesitation. Typical middle child go-at-itness.
The two-year-old was just excited I was letting her color before bed. That child would spend 24 hours a day with a marker, paint or pencil in her hand if she could. I asked if she could draw a picture of me, and she shook her head, "No." When she began drawing, I asked, "Are you drawing a picture of Mommy?" She said, "Yes" and went right back to drawing.
I was so excited to see what would come to life on the pages but also a little anxious. Life goes by quickly sometimes, and Mama can sometimes be a friendly foe for these girls - they know I love them and would do anything to protect them, but the stress and bad moods of the day can make me a little snappier than I would like to be.
Okay. A LOT snappier. I'm human.
As they drew, I had to fight the urge to ask questions or make suggestions, but they each surprised me with what they chose to represent on the paper. I guess Mama really does have many faces, and our girls did an interesting job connecting my dots.
So here they are in age order for your viewing amusement...
Me, as seen by the two-year-old
In typical two-year-old fashion, my youngest drew squiggles all over the page. I asked several times if she could draw me. She became a little agitated with the constant prodding and brought her page and two markers to me.
"Want Batman," she said.
"You want me to draw Batman for you?" I wasn't sure where she was going with this.
"Yes," she replied. "Want Batman on paper. It's Mommy."
She associates Batman with me. Considering my Batman shirts, Batman phone case and love of pretty much all things Bruce Wayne, it's no wonder my youngest thinks of Batman when asked to draw me. In the middle of her moving the page and continuing to draw, I roughed out a quick Batman symbol, and she beamed with pride.
"Want bed, Mama," she said.
"You want me to draw a bed? I want you to draw a picture of Mama," I said.
"Color bed, Mama," she said, once again demanding that a bed would remind her of me. I drew a quick bed and put a couple of lines to represent sheets. She smiled.
"Dat's my bwanket," she said. That sweet baby was drawing a picture of our bed because she sees it as her bed, too. She goes to sleep in our bed each night, and I move her when I come to bed. At some point in the night, she usually toddles down the hall and crawls back in our bed. She sees that space as comforting and sees that her blanket belongs there, which means, of course, that she belongs there, too.
My baby thinks of Batman and blankets when she thinks of me, and I think I might just adore that whole concept.
The middle child's view of Mama
When my middle girl started drawing, it looked like she was drawing a bed, but then she began drawing squiggles behind it. I had to ask.
"What are you drawing?"
"That's you sitting on the couch," she said, "and that's the tree."
We have a tree painted on the wall behind our couch in the living room. On the branches, I hung pictures of our family in frames of varying size, shape and type. The pictures are the leaves on the branches, and it all works together to create a family tree. It was my Mother's Day gift from my husband in 2012, and I absolutely adore it. I don't sit on that couch much, so I wasn't sure why she would picture me there. When she finished drawing, it all became clear.
"See, Mama? You're working on pictures on your laptop. They're pictures of me," she said, beaming proudly as she referenced a picturing date we had over the weekend (for examples, see http://mommingoutloud.hubpages.com/hub/Those-crazy-middle-kids).
That's the spot where I sit when I'm editing pictures because my laptop charger can reach to a three-pronged outlet. When she is asked to draw the first thing she thinks about when she thinks of me, she sees me on my laptop editing pictures. At first, that saddened me. I don't want her to think of me as always keeping my head in a computer. However, when I really started looking at the picture, it made me happy. She drew me looking at her and smiling. She sees that photography is a hobby that makes me happy, and she enjoyed our time together over the weekend. Plus, she drew me doing something besides housework or fussing, so it isn't as bad as I had worried it might be.
She drew me doing something that makes me happy, and that makes her happy. Sounds like a win to me.
Leave it to the oldest
My oldest daughter and I have had a fairly symbiotic relationship since the day she was born. I was a single mother until I remarried when she was 19 months old, so all our time was spent together. She stressed about my request for her to draw me. She wanted it to be perfect, detailed, pleasing. I could sense her immediate need to succeed at this task, even though she had no idea how I intended to use it.
"I need more time, Mama," she said. "I can't do it in a hurry. I got you, but every time I draw me, I look like a boy." I assured her it was okay and that I just wanted to see her rendering of me. She didn't have to include herself.
She looked at me like I was insane. In her world, there was no way a picture drawn of me wouldn't include her.
After a few minutes of reassurance and encouragement, she got to work and came up with a picture of my smilingly checking on her while she sleeps. She struggled with so many fears when she was a baby, toddler, younger child and even now. The world weighs on her, and she has nightmares several times a week. They aren't always night terrors anymore, but it happens occasionally. When that emotional chaos hits her, it's always me she calls out for, and I have a well developed system for talking her off the cliff and back into reality.
In this picture, I didn't see any of that, though. Her favorite unicorn Peter is there, but he's been cast to the side (even though he's usually tucked right by her head). I'm happily tucking her in and protecting her, as I always do, and she's sleeping peacefully.
If only bringing this child peace were as easy as drawing it into reality. There's not much this Mama wouldn't do to bring this picture to life for her.
I guess art really does imitate life sometimes.
Art is a powerful tool in the hands of a child. They'll tell you so much about how they feel and how they see you and your importance in their life if you put a marker in their hand and give them a sheet of paper. Or maybe you'll just get squiggles and a portrait of the dog, and that's okay, too. Either way, your child can speak volumes without ever using words if you encourage her to draw what's on her mind.
Evidently, this Mama has many different faces, and none of them are the Scary Mommy or SuperFail Mom faces I had worried about seeing. They see me as a caretaking, Batman-loving, skirt-wearing, photo editor who's evidently much thinner in their minds than in reality. Of course, if I asked them to repeat the assignment at the end of one of those Scary Mommy days when I have super-failed, the pictures might look very different.
I'll take what I can get for now. They enjoyed the assignment, and I enjoyed seeing how they drew me. This mommy has many faces, all of which I will continue to wear like a badge of honor. I thought I might see pictures of the silly, laughing faces we make together so often rather than the happy faces I make in quiet moments, but I'm thankful for what I saw in their pictures. They choose to think of the happy moments, and that's fine by me. At least they aren't dwelling on the negatives.
Maybe I should take a cue from these smart little girls and start doing that a little more, too.