On a good day, parenting will test the integrity of your character. On a bad day, parenting will test your will to live. Parenting children with trauma histories will cause you to test the integrity of everything and everyone you thought you knew, for the rest of your life.
~J. Skrobisz

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mother's Day Pictures

Click on pictures to enlarge

I was just reading through some of my readers' recent entries and Mother's Day has popped up a few times in others thoughts. I was telling J. at Stellar Parenting about what I expect to get from Sissy. A self portrait. Every year Sissy draws me a picture of herself. No body, no hearts, no flowers, trees, birds, suns or clouds. Just a giant face of Sissy. And never an accurate portrait. A face that Sissy says is her but never looks like her. She'll explain that "this is me how I want to be" or "this is how I will look when I'm bigger". It used to be that her portraits showed only half her face, with hair drawn across the face and only one eye showing. And the one eye would always be in the center of the forehead so The Dad and I came to know them (100+ of these one-eyed portraits) as the Cyclops Pictures.

That will be my gift. It will be folded haphazardly and shoved into a makeshift envelope of her creation that will be similarly haphazardly stapled together. I take solace in knowing that she loves herself. Maybe not us, but most definitely, her SELF. As she hopes to be. (so she doesn't really love herself, does she? Poor kid!)

An example of her stapled envelopes. I got this one on Sunday

Right now, as I type this, I can see on the pantry door (where all Smith Kid artwork is proudly displayed) the one and only picture Sissy has drawn that has two eyes and no hair in the face. But it's still just a head. Sissy said, "this is me when I'm your age, mom" Let me tell you, after years of Cyclopses, I made a huge fuss over it and slapped that picture up on the pantry door faster than I could say "thank you!" to Sissy. It's been there for more than a month now. I didn't miss the obvious - that Sissy believes when she is my age (35) she will be comfortable with herself enough to show her whole face, that Sissy internally believes she will eventually be "better".

I told the psychologist, psychiatrist and therapists about Sissy's Cyclops self portraits. I even told the school. No one believed me that it was a Freudian thing, Sissy externally expressing that she could only see half of herself, or maybe only be half of her true self. But when I told them we had more than 100 of these pictures, some of the professionals would sit up a little straighter in their chairs, lean closer or ask to see an example, maybe even keep one in Sissy's file. And these are the only pictures she draws. Self portraits. Occasionally there will be a picture with a triangle sun drawn too close in one corner to be made round but I never get to keep those. Sissy squirrels them away or tosses them.

Sissy's mother's day gift from last year. It was in the hanging frame with the enormous flowers on it so you can barely see the picture. I think that was a subliminal message too. Maybe I read too much into things... I don't think so, Anyway, this Cyclops picture actually has a body and a triangle sun and hearts. It's a rare one! lol

I try hard to foster her love of coloring and drawing because it seems to be how Sissy expresses herself. She's not eloquent with words, despite her prolific adoptive mom. *laughing at self* We actually talked about those words the other day: prolific, terse and verbose. When I defined them she laughed. "Yeah mom. you're that word" referring to prolific and then she added, "I guess I'm the other one" suggesting 'terse' - I just nodded my head. So much insight for such a troubled soul! She really is a conundrum in that sense.

I tell Sissy, well, I tell all three of them, that their birthmom is good at drawing too, that they get it from her. They really like to hear that. Aspie Boy draws themes until he perfects them. Like the naming of periods for famous artists like Picasso's blue and red periods, Aspie Boy has had a Titanic period, a rocket ship period and is currently drawing up a storm through the dragon/medieval period. He too, will draw 100s until he perfects his craft but he never draws real people. If there are people in the picture, they are fiction or comic book style characters. Typical Aspergers. (Just the other day I muttered at him when I was slightly annoyed, "Could you be a little LESS Asperger's just ONCE?!")

Proof of his prolific nature, and examples from the titanic and rocket periods

Wonder Girl likes to draw still-lifes. She will set up her chair in front of something, anything really, and with her clipboard, pencil and paper, will draw a landscape drawing of whatever she's looking at. EVERY detail. She loses interest when it comes to coloring them. So most of these drawings are pencil-only. Her other category of artwork is wild animals, particularly the big cats. And horses. LOTS of horses. These animal pictures she'll color, staple into a book complete with title page. "My book of animals" is her most recent addition. Every page has just one animal on it which she writes a sentence about. It's SO cute!!!!

All three of them have some makeshift portfolio to store their artwork in. Either a folder, a bin or in Aspie Boy's case, my most prolific (to use the word again) artist, I have created a giant portfolio case from cardboard, packing tape and ribbons. This addition was made after he filled up two folders and a binder and in his disgust for lack of space, dumped his art in the trash. A teary mom pulled them all out again after he left for school. He really is quite good! His most recent dragon/castle creation is also on the pantry door after some repair. It was on legal size paper and his binder is letter size so he CUT HIS PICTURE!!!! to fit it in the binder. I cried about that too, fyi. Maybe I'm just extra weepy lately from all the stress? Seriously. Crying over a nine year old's artwork? LOL

the cut picture on the pantry door

Aspie Boy's portfolio

I've done some casual searching into finding an art therapist locally but abandoned the search. There is only one and the cost is high. Besides, I don't think my kids need to be told to draw to get out their feelings. They already do that quite well. They also really like coloring mandalas, the standard therapists approach to get a child to talk about their emotions while coloring. Which is why 95% of my Mother's Day gifts from the three of them are their artwork. It's how they say, "Mom? We love you." Or in Sissy's case, "Mom, will you love THIS version of me?" One day maybe she'll know that I'll love whatever version of her she is, even the primal screaming one that hurls objects at us and sees things with her Cyclops eye that the rest of us don't see.

Sissy also colors lots and lots and lots of princess pictures. LOTS. It's just about the only thing she'll color. RADish that she is, believes she IS a princess. lol

One of my favorites mostly because of the story. one night Aspie Boy swallowed his supper whole, cleared his place, and ran back to the table while the rest of us were still eating to draw this. It was in his head and he had to get it out! By the time the rest of us were done eating, he was nearly through drawing it

Not a drawing but too cute to pass up. Wonder Girl created a Puppy Hospital in the living room recently, reenacting the trauma of her dog bite accident in March from which she's healing nicely. Her PT says she'll be good to go by the end of May but her psyche is still a little off. She is coming to therapy with Mommy for a few weeks to work through her nightmares and trauma. 26 stitches and a nicked Achilles' tendon from a Boxer will do that to a tiny, 42 lb. 5 year old!!!


GB's Mom said...

Thanks for sharing great pictures. Sissy's last year mother day picture did have a bit of sun in it- and I think drawing a full face has got to mean something good! Sending prayers and hugs!

Corey said...

I read somewhere once that you should ask a RAD kid to draw a picture of kid & mom on a bridge. That the photo would be "very telling".. I thought, ok, so if I ask Vivi to do this, she will be on one side of the bridge and I will be way over on the other. No. There we are standing together, smiling happily on the bridge.

I don't know wtf it was supposed to mean, but it meant nothing to me.

Jennie said...

OMG Corey, you kill me! I'm going to have to get Sissy to draw one. It should be interesting. Sissy NEVER draws pictures of her family. Like, N.E.V.E.R. What, we don't exist? Ticks me off a little but then I can't justify my anger because Aspie Boy doesn't draw family either but I rationalize it away BECAUSE he's Asperger's...

I'm going to do it today - I'll publish the results! interesting...

maybe Vivi loves you after all? Or maybe it's a "keep your friends close but keep your enemies closer" kind of thing? LMAO

Ashley said...


I think it is just *so* cool that you realise that Wonder Girl has hospital trauma to work through... I don't know, a lot of people in my exprerience would try to get their kiddo to "let go" or move past the incident via forgetting.. So, for whatever it means, you're *awesome* as far as I am concerned.

Great insight into Sissy too.

Jennie said...

thanks Ashley. One of the other things I did for Wonder Girl is to let her express her anger. She told me the other night, "mom. I'm mad the dog bit me but you were like, 'i'm so glad you're ok' and ... yeah" I took it to mean that she felt she couldn't be mad because I wasn't. I was relieved the bite wasn't worse! So I wrote her a letter. "Dear WG, I'm mad the dog bit you too. Love, Mom" And WG was REALLY happy to know I felt that way.