Light and Shade

Light and Shade: My Daughter’s First Painting Of Me

What does a kindergarten-aged child’s painting of you, say about you?

In my case, plenty.

There’d been quite a bit of build-up to my four-year-old daughter Avie’s first portrait of her dad. She’d started it on a Monday – a full week before I set eyes on the finished product – but “wasn’t happy with it” so abandoned the idea in favour of something a little more abstract involving her sisters.

On the Friday, she had another go, but it was still drying when I arrived for kinder pick-up, so I had to wait a full weekend before I could see myself through her ocean blue eyes.

It was worth the wait. When she handed it over, a huge grin spread across her face. I smiled in anticipation as I unfurled the large piece of butcher’s paper. I smoothed it out and held it up to the light. It was beautiful. The simplicity of it. The bright colours. The lop-sided yellow sun. The ‘blue’ clouds. The multi-coloured ‘rocks’. The grass. The river. The green t-shirt that I wear every second day.

And my lips: upturned into a huge smile.

It was the antithesis of the grey-cloud picture I often see in myself…

It was the antithesis of the grey-cloud picture I often see in myself. Of course, this means very little when you have the unconditional love like this. The drawing showed how much of a light I am in my daughter’s life – a fact that I sometimes forget as each day melds exhaustively into the next. But, here: here was a reminder to take heed of the very special place she has in my life, and me, hers. Happiness and colour weren’t things she always saw in me, but it was what she wanted to see in the most important man in her little universe.

One of Avie’s teachers giggle-whispered over my shoulder: “It’s a spitting image of you!”

Another teacher said: “She’d been feeling bad that she’d only done one for her mummy; do you like it?”

Like it? I love it. Sure, its subject is missing a few vitals – namely feet, hands and ears; three body parts I use extensively in accommodating Avie’s every whim – but perhaps it’s spot on, too. Because I’m not perfect. But by viewing how my darling daughter sees things in her unmarked, beautifully innocent world, I’m reminded that I’m doing OK.


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