My six-year-old daughter is a very visual thinker, who absolutely adores her brother. About a year ago, I stumbled across a notebook of sketches I made in 1980, when I was 12, and I remember how much I enjoyed drawing gadgets and cityscapes.
So I bought a notebook and some mechanical pencils, thinking I’d encourage my daughter to express herself through art, and maybe in the process reawaken the visual part of my brain.
So, in my spare moments around the house, I started sketching web page layouts, or characters and props from the bedtime stories I’ve been telling my daughter. (Recently, I had a burning need to know what an engine room looked like in our ether-powered blimpship.)
Carolyn has picked up the habit from me — we supply her with little notebooks which she happily fills up. She drew this picture during church this weekend. There’s Carolyn on the left (note the “C” floating above her head) snuggled up against her brother Peter. Note also the little hearts inside the letters.
At the time she drew the above picture, I was sitting between Carolyn and Peter, and I wouldn’t let her squirm across me to show this picture to her brother. Blinking back tears, Carolyn sat down in the pew and drew another, very different picture:
That’s Carolyn on the left again, with a heart hovering over head as before — only now the heart is broken, and each broken half contains the letter “P”. One finger points to herself, the other points pleadingly towards her brother (whose shoulders droop in sorrow, and whose own floating broken heart contains little “C”s).
I have been reduced to a vertical barrier — an impersonal force separating the two siblings.
6 thoughts on “Sibling Affection and Paternal Abstraction as Drawn By a Six-Year-Old; or, Aren’t My Daughter’s Drawings Cute?”
I admit that I could probably get more immediate compliance from her if I took the “Obey me or I’ll punish you” approach… and there are times when it’s exhausting to have to explain all the consequences and help her little brain prompt her to make the right decision.
But we’ve done some reading on the psychology and upbringing of people who were most likely to help Holocaust victims — they were people who grew up in households where the parents often used the language of morality and justice, while people who grew up in households in which children were supposed to obey the authority figures simply because of their role (parent, police officer, politician, military officer) were more likely to follow deeply immoral orders.
Dennis: Instead of an impenetrable barrier, you may actually be a mirror to her ego. Without making too much of a very touching set of drawings, in transactional analysis, your adult (or superego) is helping to stabilize her impulses, making her focus on the present reality that she was in church: she had modify her behavior accordingly. As you mention, you frequently, “discuss the conflict between her “conscience” and her “temptation,” sometimes even taking on voices, one urging her to misbehave, and the other explaining the consequences and suggesting alternatives.” You are such a good Dad! Carolyn’s pictures were beautiful depictions of her emotions at work. She seems like a really sweet girl.
I love that barrier drawing! And the clouds overhead! And does Peter have a devilish grin? Anyway, this is CLASSIC! Good post, Father Impenetrable.
On a regular basis I discuss the conflict between her “conscience” and her “temptation,” sometimes even taking on voices, one urging her to misbehave, and the other explaining the consequences and suggesting alternatives.
Ah, I missed the line–but at least it doesn’t have horns and a tail. Very interesting, her conception of you–her much-loved daddy–at this moment a dehumanized barrier. I would have thought that most kids would’ve presented a “mean” looking person.
Kids are truly amazing.
That is adorable–and illustrates perfectly her feelings. I think you should be grateful that she, in the presence of the church atmosphere of good and evil, didn’t draw YOU in there, considering your interference in her good intentions!