Am I Really a Robot Mommy?
That’s the picture my daughter drew!
Last winter, my daughter’s pre-K teacher asked the class to draw a picture of an imaginary machine. Most of them came up with interesting variations on cars, rocket ships and gadgets. Not my daughter. She drew an enormous round figure with brown and green hair and blank blue eyes. Its mouth was a stern purple slash, its broom-like arms spread wide. The machine’s name: “Robot Mommy.” Its function: “She walks toward me.”
Holy warp drive! Was my darling 4-year-old trying to say that she’d rather have an android than her own flesh-and-blood mom? Worse, did she see me as a machine coldly going through the motions of mothering?
Maybe – and maybe not. As any art therapist will tell you, children’s drawings are a window into their feelings and their perceptions of the world. Shapes, sizes, colors and details can be highly meaningful, depending on what’s going on in the child’s life. But age has a lot to do with it, too. I did a little online research on children’s art after seeing Robot Mommy. To my relief, I found out that it’s normal for young preschoolers to draw a person as a big circle with stick limbs. After age five, drawings become more realistic. Sure enough, a few months later Sarah drew another, more detailed picture of me, complete with a big smile and a model-thin figure. (Thank you, sweetheart!)
Still, seeing my robotic image was a good reminder that children pay closer attention to us than we realize. They have an uncanny knack for finding and pointing out our flaws, whether it’s a crayoned portrait of us with frizzy hair and wide hips or a loud public remark (“Eww! Mom, what’s that thing on your neck?”). But they can also offer much-needed reassurances that we’re not doing such a bad job as parents. A picture of a happy family holding hands under a bright sun or a first-grade essay that says, “I love my mom because she helps me when I’m hurt” is a sure-fire mood lifter.