Monday, October 28, 2013

Art as means of processing the crud of life

My son is four and a half years old, and he's constantly drawing terrifying things like monsters and zombies and sharks with people's legs sticking out of their mouths. Most of these things come from his imagination, but when I tell him about something terrifying from real life, I find it interesting that drawing is his first coping mechanism of choice.

I try to strike a balance between honest and age-appropriate when I tell him these real-life horror stories (like the Boston Marathon Bombing and September 11th, as shown below), and with a natural sense of empathy, he internalizes these things. In general, though, he's a very optimistic child with a big heart. I think he can afford to be so because he processes the darker side of life through drawing and telling elaborate stories. How terrifying it must be to be a child, and not to know yet what's real and what's not and that there really are scary things out there.

The Boston Marathon Bomber, a "monster holding a bomb." The bomb is the blue blob with a yellow-and-blue blob on top in the monster's right hand. I did not call the man a monster; he did.

September 11th, with "kids crying and worried about their mommies in the tower, and a monster about to push the tower over, and a superhero coming to save the mommies, and they're saying, 'HELP!'" I did not add these details to the story.

I do believe in the therapeutic powers of art-making, the simple healing act of expression, and I've long harbored ambitions (among my collection of ambitions) to help other people find that power. At least I can start with my own children.

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