Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hmmmm, what could this mean?

I can't help it but ever since I majored in Child Development for my undergrad degree and Psychology for my graduate degree, I've been fascinated by children's art. Awhile back, which feels like a whole lifetime ago, one of my internships was part of a school district. Many of my clients were children and most of the focus was on art therapy, role playing with dolls and sandtray (which I also loved). Most of the children were sent to counseling because of abuse that had gone on within the family, whether it be physical, verbal or sexual abuse. At first, many of them didn't want to talk, especially about the abuse, so I'd usually develop a repoire with them by having them do art. It seemed innocent to them I'm sure but to me, it was a window into their world through their eyes. There are so many things you can understand about a child and their surroundings when you look at the art they've created.

But since becoming a mom, my past career has fallen by the wayside. I used to read psychology journals, studies and research in my spare time because I honestly enjoyed reading that kind of stuff. Now, I read parenting magazines in the hopes of learning how to be a better mother without losing my sanity, how to discpline my children without them ending up in therapy for the rest of their lives and how to make time for myself while raising a house full of needy, dependent children. My focus is on my children now, not other people's children. Although I can give great advice to a friend about her child, should she ask, but when it comes to my own children I tend to have blinders on. The obvious doesn't occur to me for some reason. Their behavior throws me for a loop on a daily basis.

However, whenever my children bring home art, the psychology lover in me comes out from hiding. I find myself starting at their art, trying to figure out what was going on inside their little heads while they made their creation. I sit there and try to figure out why would they make the apple blue, why is the apple in the shape of a diamond rather than a circle, and why is the apple falling out of the sky??? Usually I can't find much meaning to it, so I'll say, "tell me about your drawing" and I get a simple answer, "I drew an apple and I made it blue so it matched the color of the sky. I didn't make the apple red because I like blue better and I like the sky without clouds when it's blue". Okay....simple enough.

But yesterday, when I picked Cole and Bella up from preschool, they both came running over to me all excited, waving these pictures in my face. Cole shoved his in front of my eyes first and said, "Look, Mommy, it's our family....there's you and Daddy and me....then there's Bella, Garrett and Landon". In his picture, there he was right next to Tim and I, all 3 of us look exactly alike. Then there's Bella further off to the side, along with Garrett and Landon (who incidentally also look alike, and are right next to each other, like two peas in a pod). I also noticed that he had placed himself a little above everyone else.

Then Bella shoved her picture in my face and said, "Look at mine....I made our family too". And she pointed out to me who everyone was. Cole was off to the left, she was right next to me and Tim and then Garrett and Landon were down below, together like two peas in a pod.

I couldn't help but analyze all this. I found it so interesting that each of them had put themselves right next to me and Tim, while the other twin was off to the side. Cole even made himself look just like Tim and me. Bella made the boys all look alike but made herself look different than everyone else.

It got me wondering if both of them are feeling a little neglected as individuals. Because they are twins, they tend to get lumped together an awful lot. Wherever Cole goes, Bella goes and vice versa. They're in the same preschool class, they share the same room, they sit next to each other in the mini-van...everything is in pairs. And when they were younger, maybe it wasn't such a big deal to them. In fact, I'm sure they preferred each other's company, rather than be alone. But now, as they're growing older, maybe they are craving that individual attention that most singleton children get. Usually, if they are without their twin, it's because they are with one of us. But I don't think there's ever really been a time where each of them has had alone time with both me and Tim, away from the other 3 children. They've never had that experience of having mine and Tim's attention solely on them, without having to compete for attention or to be heard over the other children, always having to hear "okay, just wait a minute, let me change Garrett's diaper real fast".

I'm sure if I came right out and asked them this, they may not react to it or even have a clue what I'm really asking them. However, as I studied both their pictures, it was clear to me that this issue is on their minds. Or, perhaps, I'm reading too much into my children's innocent artwork. But from my past experience, children may not have the knowledge or the words on how to express exactly what it is they want/need or how they see themselves within their family, but give them some art supplies and some freedom to create whatever they'd's pretty clear what's going on within their little heads.


Leslie said...

Wow, Helene, that's interesting. I saw it totally differently before reading your explanation. When I read that they each put themself right next to you and Tim, I thought, "That's cool. Even though they are each just one in a big group of kids, they both think they are the parent's favorite; the most important one to their parents."

Another way to think about it?


Joy said...

Very interesting, I love checking out my kids' art stuff. My kids' are both pretty artsy and it's really interesting. Wanna anazlize my kids' art? LOL

Doré said...

I see how it could be the way you analyze it or just as easily be as Leslie said. Maybe you should ask them and see what they have to say.

When Brayden gets old enough to bring home pictures, I'm posting them to get your take on them!!!

Michele S said...

My kids do the same thing. Unlike you, I nod enthusiam for their art abilities and then throw them out when they aren't looking, or my house would look like it belonged to some old lady that collected cats and newspapers.

Gregory drew a house yesterday with just a bedroom for him and one for me and one for Daddy and one for Grammy. He didn't put the girls OR Austin in it.

I think they are just sick of their siblings. It's a love/hate relationship. KWIM?

That's a really "deep" observation by the way! :) My kids are all going to grow up to be pschopaths anyway because I throw out everything.

Creative Junkie said...

I found your post fascinating.

I'm a twin myself ... I have a twin brother. I remember thinking, as I was growing up, that my brother got preferential treatment and I felt like an outsider. I later found out that he was feeling those exact same emotions in our childhood!

ParentingPink said...

Love the art work and especially, how children interpret their art work! I guess this comes from being a shrink, but I do think kids tell us a lot about how they feel through art. Plus, you have some awesome little artists there!

I've "booed" you over on my blog. Happy Halloween!

barb said...

Oh wow, you could probably have a field day with my creative kid's artwork! It's out there!

Michele S said...

Helene, I just drew a picture of a house and I put Greg outside and the kids and me inside. What does it mean? What does it mean? Hee hee hee!

Anonymous said...

I often wonder if Daniel and Melissa will fight like cats and dogs like my sister and I did. They are always going to be a novelty in the family and I wonder if they will grow up resenting each other.....

I figure that if the children are alive when my husband gets home at the end of the day, I've done my job.

----Roseanne Barr

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