Ever since Son could talk, he has requested that we draw him pictures. Of racecars, Spiderman, trucks, trains, tigers, dinosaurs, and countless other creatures and machines. He loves to color and paint…But he’s a perfectionist so he’s had tremendous anxiety about drawing because it doesn’t, in his words, “look perfect when I do it.” He has had the same stress over writing, often collapsing in tears of frustration because his Q’s aren’t perfectly round, or their “tails” are too long. He has on more than one occasion cried because markers don’t erase and torn up the paper containing the offending lines.
We’ve done everything we can think of to encourage his creativity and try to help him understand that perfection is not required. We have him draw things on “practice paper” so that if he isn’t happy with the results, they’ve already been labeled Temporary. [this works reasonably well] We have had kindergarten friends write him letters, so he can see how other kids’ writing looks. We have been purposely sloppy in our coloring with him to de-emphasize staying in the lines. We have focused our praise on his color choices, bold lines, or the zoominess or ferociousness of the particular drawing, rather than offering compliments that indicate qualitative judgments.
And yet, he still insists that Husband and I draw for him much more than he will draw for himself.
A week or two ago, I heard him murmuring to himself as he wrote his name on something, “It’s okay if it’s not perfect. It doesn’t have to be perfect.” Over and over again he said it, like a mantra. And this ended with his whole name written without any tears! A good first step.
And then, on January 1, 2008, out of the blue, he took markers, put a piece of paper on the easel, and proceeded to draw a train. All. by. himself. A train with a smokestack, a whistle, a headlight, wheels, a window for the engineer, and even parallel bars (we had to look up the name for those – he was calling them the “straight chugga chugga things on the wheels” and making a rotating motion with his whole arm). Then he wrote the word TRAIN at the top of the page. And then he drew two more pictures when he saw how delighted I was by his solo effort.
I suggested he dictate a story about the pictures, so we could make a book. The first story was quite short: “I love cars. I love alligators. I love trains.” After some prompting to tell me more about each picture (I didn’t ask him any leading questions, just asked what else he wanted to say), he produced a whole story. He even made the choice himself to build in some logical connections between the pictures. So we scanned the pictures, and made him a book of his very first story ever. (He chose the font because he said it looked like Rock Band, Husband's very popular Christmas present.) We read Son his book at least a dozen time the first day. Then we put it on his bedside table, since Son thinks it will make the perfect bedtime story. I read it to him again before he fell asleep.If this happy, confident child continues to create drawings out of his own little head, I’ll read this book a hundred times.
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Son's First Book
I love cars. Cars drive on the road. This car is going to the mountains. Its name is haba the car.
I love alligators. This alligator wants to eat the car. His name is dobo the alligator. His tail was at the end of the paper so I made it small like a dog’s tail.
I love trains, and this train wants to catch the alligator. The train is taking the alligator to jail. Then he can’t get out that day.