Small Child, Big Heart

If I gave you a mirror, a pencil, some crayons, and a piece of white paper along with the instructions to draw a picture of yourself, what would you draw? If it were me, I would start with the basic shapes. I would trace the oval outline of my head, then my neck, and then my square, broad shoulders. I’d outline my eyes, making them large, round, and brown. I’d add a nose, slightly long and wide and a bit pointy at the end. I’d add small, thin lips with just a touch of pink, along with thick, reddish-brown eyebrows, and brown freckles dotting my peach-colored face all over. I’d add ears, but then cover them with reddish-brown hair, flowing downward in wavy strands and coming to rest just past the tops my shoulders. If I were to add the rest of my body to the paper, it would be somewhat short, with a boxy, athletic (although not very toned) shape. And finally, I would add a black “Rise Against” T-shirt and a pair of grey gym shorts (ready for a workout after I blog).

Would your process be similar to mine? Some might add a background. Their home? Their family? Their job? Their pets? Maybe some would draw their favorite hobbies such as a book in hand, or sitting at a computer, or going for a hike in the woods.

How do you picture yourself?

My son was faced with this assignment during his first art class in his first week of school. Here is what he came up with:

He got all of the essentials in there (except, where did his ears go?). His blonde hair was spiked up with gel that day, and he captured his big blue eyes and adorable smile. He put five fingers on each hand and five toes on each foot. As his background, he surrounded himself in a place of happiness: his own backyard with his dog (our dog is three-legged), his cat, trees, grass, a blue sky, and the sun shining down on him as he plays. But if you look at his torso, he added something that never would have occurred to me to put into my own self-portrait: his heart. When he pulled his self-portrait out of his backpack to show me, the heart was one of the first things I noticed, and I was taken aback by its presence.

I pointed to the heart, and I asked him, “Can you tell me about this?”

“It’s my heart,” he said. Plain and simple.

“Could you see your heart in the mirror?” I asked.

“No,” he said. “But I just wanted to draw it.”

There are other things in his portrait that he couldn’t see in the mirror, but those things I didn’t question. The things he put in his background didn’t make my heart swell or the gears in my brain start turning. I probably would have surrounded my self-portrait with things that I enjoy as well. But I never would have included my heart.

Would you have thought to put your heart in your self-portrait?

As a parent, I have found that my son often teaches me much more than I can teach him. Sure, I may have more knowledge, but give him enough time, and he will accumulate the same knowledge and then some. The day he brought home his self-image on paper, with his heart so bold and evident, he made me wonder: what happened to my own heart? Why would I leave out something so vital to my life and my well-being? To him, it wasn’t something profound or deeply thought about. It was just there. It was his heart. It was a part of him. It needed to be expressed just as much as his eyes or nose or mouth. And yet, to me, his simple art project has shaken me to a thought: I give love to those around me, but am I keeping enough for myself?

Had I drawn a picture of my children and husband or doodled their names onto paper, I probably would have surrounded them in cute little hearts. I show my love for them (although not always as much as I should), and that is important. But we need to keep a little bit of that love and continually pour it onto ourselves. I’m not talking about being selfish or self-centered, but to have self-love and confidence. We need to love ourselves so much, that you can see that love when we look at ourselves in the mirror. If we can do that, if we can keep our hearts showing through to the outside, then it’s almost impossible not to give love to the people around us. We need to find a way to preserve that childlike self-love, so that our children will never lose theirs.

<;3 Make your heart show today. <;3

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10 Comments on “Small Child, Big Heart”

  1. Chris says:

    What a wonderful post! Children so often remind us the of simplest things that we take for granted. This made my day;)

  2. Well written. I like the way you transition from yourself to your son, to a greater lesson. Nice job.

  3. Excellent! How lovely! What a wonderful little guy you have got there… Be sure to tell him that his big heart helped lots of people in the blogosphere to notice their own too! 🙂 Thank you for sharing!

    • Oh, he gets so embarrassed when I tell him things like that, but I do anyway. He’s shy and modest (with strangers), and he never sees what the big deal is. Someday, he will. 🙂 Thank you!

  4. muddledmom says:

    Interesting. In all of the self-portraits I’ve seen at school, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one with a heart either. So great that he included it. He must feel really loved! And no, I wouldn’t have included my heart in my own self-portrait.

    • Really? I just assumed it was a kid thing. Either way, I think it meant much more to me being there than it did to him. He just seemed so matter of fact about its need to be there that it was no big deal to him. It had me thinking about its purpose for days. I think that makes him a true artist. 😉 Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.


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