This week, my daughter had the opportunity to go to the Kimbell Art Museum. She attended a children's storytime/art project session that was focused on Self-Portraits.
The first learning point, obviously, was understanding the term: Self-Portrait, in "kid-speak."
My daughter's summary: "It's a picture of me, painted by me."
Okay, so far!
The resulting portrait was lovely, in my mom-eyes. A nice round head with brown dots for eyes and a red squiggle for the smile. A pink triangle for her dress, with simple lines for legs and pink smudges for shoes. She's getting better at writing, too, so the portrait proudly included her name, in multi-colors. Pretty straightforward.
While we waited for the masterpieces to dry, and the kids were being distracted by hand-washing, the museum education docent invited the moms to examine the figures more closely. In each of the eight paintings, done by preschoolers, the subjects were missing arms, legs, or both. Heads and bodies were present in each, and arms OR legs in some, but not a single self-portrait included both.
The docent explained, as I seem to remember a school teacher once doing, that this is normal developmental awareness for this age group. As little people, they can clearly identify their arms and legs, in reality. However, when "recreating themselves," appendages get lost. They are not at the center of anything, like a face is or a body is; children are more concerned with their "cores." For them, arms and legs, hands and feet are second-thoughts. They'll be there, of course, but aren't important enough to make the artistic cut.
Suddenly, then, the kids' event became a moms' psychology session, when one mom insightfully observed: "Maybe the kids are right. Maybe if we, as grown-ups, were less concerned with how much our hands were doing and how busy our feet were, taking us places, and spent more time being concerned about our heads and our hearts, life would be less stressful."
As our group of moms heaved a collective sigh of "wow," and thought of our lengthy holiday to-do lists, school events, church socials, parties, and Santa-responsibilities, we were silent.
Nothing more was said, as we all gathered our kids, coats and artwork and headed home. I, however, have been thinking about this, ever since. I come back to that mom's observation each time I walk by the refrigerator, where my daughter's self-portrait is now displayed.
I DO want to be "centered" and I DO have a hard time filtering through all of the busy-ness to remain calm. I'd like my own self-portrait to reflect a relaxed, happy mom and not a frazzled one. At this time of year, especially, it's worth making the effort.
I am grateful for grown-up lessons that come from unexpected sources.
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