A Brief History of Mother’s Day Drawings

My wife badgered me about Mother’s Day something fierce this year.

“You always do it,” she said. “Every two years.”

“Every two years,” I said. “I don’t remember committing to that. I don’t have any ideas this year.”

“It’s my favorite thing. Please?”

That was the first conversation about five weeks ago. We revisited the conversation every few days after that, and each time I insisted that just because I did a cartoon drawing of our family every two years in the past, that didn’t constitute a promise for the future. Erin was not persuaded. In her mind, I will be doing these drawings until the day I die. Maybe even after that.

So, I gave in. I did another drawing, I gave it to her this morning, she gushed, and Facebook nodded their collective approval. And then I sat down to write this blog and I discovered I’d been swindled.

I have literally NEVER made Erin a cartoon family Mother’s Day drawing two years after the previous one. I’ve drawn one four years after the previous one, and I’ve drawn one three years after the previous one, but until today I have never put myself through the hours and hours of work it takes to make these thing a scant two years after the previous one.

Well played, Erin.

* * *

This is more for me than anyone else.

I put a lot more thought into these drawings than it may first appear. I see them as capturing a moment in time, and I try to fill them with details that speak to their respective moments. Thought it might be fun to try to do a little recapturing. Let’s go back 9 years.

2007:

MothersDay2007

Full disclosure: this drawing makes me cringe. Literally, the only thing I think I pulled off well was my own face. Everything else is garbage. My opinion.

Subsequent Mother’s Day drawings would stick to a “sitting on the couch” theme (my wife calls them “couch drawings”), but with this first one I didn’t have anything like that in mind. I just wanted to do a drawing of my family and I wanted it to be simple and I wanted it to say something.

2007 was a rough, rough year for my little family. Cami, our youngest, was just 2-years-old. Very shortly after she was born in 2005, we discovered she had some severe physical and mental disabilities that, honestly, even as I type this eleven years later, still does not feel totally real.

In 2007, Erin, my wife, was not okay. It would be another three years before she could totally accept Cami’s differences and in the meantime she filled her days with doctor visits, physical therapy sessions, trips to specialists in San Francisco, battles with the school district, and just trying to remain positive and healthy in the face of the realization of her greatest fear. We just wanted to know what was wrong with Cami. We wanted a diagnosis because the limbo of not knowing is a true, ugly, tear-filled Hell. We never got that diagnosis, and it took a long time to come to terms with that. This drawing was made when we were still in the thick of the pain.

I drew us happy and smiling. I drew Erin and I protecting and encircling our two girls. Our world was small at the time, and intentionally so. The more we kept to ourselves and away from the reminders of how different and disabled Cami was (i.e. all other typical children and their parents), the happier we were.

Cami did this thing back then where if you asked her how big she was, she’d raise her arms up high. Elora, our oldest, was an adorable, typical four-year-old with one killer dimple. Erin, apparently, had anime eyes. I had a big, floppy wave of hair. A lot of that would change.

2011:

MothersDay2011

This is a bit more like it. The first “couch drawing” came just after we had finally become the family we were supposed to be as Violet’s arrival that year opened up the world in a way we didn’t expect. Suddenly, the family and Erin’s attentions weren’t all about Cami anymore. This was needed. The hyper focus on Cami and her needs left little opportunity for Erin to actually be a mother like she wanted to be. Violet, a bright, sparkly breath of fresh air, gave Erin a chance to step back from Cami and get reconnected to her as a mom and not just as her doctor or therapist or teacher or lawyer or any other of the thousands of roles she was asked to play for Cami’s sake.

I decided to depict both Erin and Cami, 6,  as extremely happy. Cami had just gotten her haircut and donated her hair to charity, so she had this crazy cute short cut. In her hand is a duck toy she played with constantly… whose name I can’t remember now. Cami is a champion fidgeter and always needs something to whip back or forth or she’s just not happy.

Erin is holding Violet, 3 mo., who was basically a lump of smiley humanity at that point. She didn’t give me much to work with. I generally try to depict us in the actual clothes we wore at the time, but for some reason I chose to have Erin wear the shoes she was wearing when I first met her back in 1998. Somehow, I still remembered what they looked like.

Elora, 8, was big into peace signs at the time, and a fashion style we not-so-lovingly referred to as “hobo chic”. The child had nice clothes, but she refused to wear them in nice combinations. Since I was the artist, I chose to put her in her most fashionable outfit she had, but it certainly wasn’t how she always looked. Now, I kind of wish I had given her something a little more accurate and ratty.

As for me, I look way cooler than I actually did at the time. The frayed pants and sweet shoes are very true to the too-long pants and wife-selected shoes I wore at the time, but I hate, hate, hate clothes shopping. I generally hate all my clothes about two seconds after buying them. So, in this drawing I’m wearing a shirt I have never actually owned. But I thought it would be cool if I did, so…

2014:

MothersDay2014

Everything was going so well that year. In the time between this and the previous drawing, I’d been promoted to Art Director at work, Erin had started doing work as an on camera talent at the same company, we bought a new house, Elora was elected as Student Body President, Cami found a place to call just her own at the Heart of the Horse Therapy Ranch, and Violet was Violet. And there’s no getting Violet down. Erin and I even got the chance to vacation in Europe, a first visit for both of us. It was an incredible time.

I let Elora, 11, choose her own outfit for the drawing. It’s hard to tell, but her shirt depicts a dog riding a surfboard. It was her favorite. I have no idea why. She was also really into fluffy skirts and tutus at the time.

Cami, 9, experienced a serious growth spurt since the last drawing, and now her fidget toy of choice was a little Brobee (from Yo Gabba Gabba) doll. Her shirt shows off her newfound love of horses after her first year as a regular rider at Heart of the Horse.

I don’t know why I never thought to put our pets into the drawing before now, but I went for it this year. Oz, our dog on the couch, will never stop licking. He’s gross. On the floor, Batman the dog chases King George the cat–a daily occurrence.

Erin is wearing my favorite t-shirt of hers and a necklace with the first letter of each of our kids’ names on it. The necklace is tiny, but if you zoom in you can actually see it. Even though she was working part-time for the first time since Elora was born, she’d really come into her own as a mom and the pains and trials of yesteryear had developed into a strength. She’s an amazing woman.

Once again, save for the pants and shoes, I’m not actually wearing what I wore at the time. Also, I lost a lot of hair between the last drawing and this one, so I pushed my hairline back a bit and shortened it. I’ve also got a bit more going on in the chin–as in, I’m doubling it up a bit. Just a bit though.

Violet was a crazy person two years ago. Still is. She’s a spunky little thing and climbing around on the couch like a little gremlin absolutely fit her.

2016:

MothersDay2016

Here it is, the drawing I gave to Erin just this morning.

Hoo-boy. Shortly after the last drawing the world blew up. My wife and I both lost our jobs within 24 hours of each other and we’ve been rebuilding ever since. Going back over these drawings, I’m impressed by the ebb and flow of life. Ups and downs are just part and parcel, but in revisiting them I’m impressed by how much that plays out over the long term. It gives me hope, honestly, that we’ll be back on top in no time… and then we’ll probably fall again, somehow. This is just the way things work. There’s comfort in that.

This couch is crowded, and that’s even after having taken off the dog from last time. I’ve drawn us more closely together, like we’re circling the wagons a little bit. We endure our challenges and trials together.

Elora, 13, is quite the poised young woman now and I needed to find some way to represent that, so I gave her a regal pose. She’s only an inch shorter than Erin now, and I think you can pretty much tell that just from this drawing. Once again, she picked out her own outfit.

Cami, 11, I chose to keep largely the same, save for a little weight gain. Cami looks like she’s five or six years old. She’s a bit perpetually frozen in time. Her shirt reads “Team Happy” and that’s the effect Cami has on people, and certainly on us. Last Fall, she donated her hair again, so she’s back to the short hair.

Our pets are no longer allowed on the couch, so they’re all stuck on the floor. Oz is particularly saddened by this.

Erin has returned to school this year to get her Master’s Degree in Communication. She’s our professional, so now she gets a dark, professional look (this drawing is darker overall, which I think fits with how beaten up we all feel at this point). At her feet is her book bag. Also, after having drawn it on the wrong side for the past two drawings, I finally got the part in her hair going the right way.

I’m dressed like an 8th Grade boy, which is accurate to how I dress right now as I fulfill my role as a stay-at-home dad and work on various projects. The hat I wear has the Tremendum Pictures logo on it, where I work (mostly at home) as a writer (among other things). My shirt is actually a real shirt, one of very few I enjoy wearing. I don’t really care that it says Batman, I just like the fit. My shoes, you’ll notice, are the same from last time. My wardrobe is deteriorating. My hate for clothes shopping coupled with our financial challenges leaves me with little motivation to improve or update my wardrobe. Also, you can barely tell in the drawing, but my temples are now gray.

Violet has been just OBSESSED with Star Wars this past year, and particularly with Rey. She actually does own and wear this costume, and she has a light saber, too. Her enthusiasm is adorable. Even if she grows out of it later, the is the Star Wars year. (The fever extends to Cami as well. They’re the only movies she asks for and her new fidget toy is a little Stormtrooper.)

* * *

Just to bring it back, I’m so grateful for my amazing wife and for this little family we’ve managed to create together. Giant, giant Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! You do a great work.

I get asked all the time what I charge for “couch drawings.” They’re labor intensive and not cheap (ex. I’d have charged about $500 for this latest one), but if you’re interested in exploring the possiblity, feel free to drop me a line at bwhheasley (at) gmail (dot) com. 

Stop Calling My Daughter a Slut

GirlBack

Dear Men of the Internet,

Stop calling my daughter a slut.

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog entitled “Stop Talking About My Daughter’s Butt” as a letter to the “Boys of the World” kindly requesting that they stop trying to give my daughter body image issues by commenting on, among other things, her butt. ForEveryMom.com picked it up, but you probably read it over the weekend because when the Independent Journal Review picked it up and re-published it, it went viral.

You also had a lot to say about it. So, let’s talk. You go first.

Technically, all these comments are public record and there shouldn’t be anything wrong with me showing you the names and faces of these people, but I’ve covered them up anyway so as not to focus on the wrong thing. It doesn’t matter who said this stuff. What matters is that they were said.

“This will change nothing and help no one”

Maybe! But let’s give it a shot anyway. Can’t hurt to try.

“…As a man and used to be boy this Dad knows full well that at one time his life he probably did and said some of the same things these boys he talks about says and does… maybe you should go out and buy her clothes that’s a little too big so these boys you talk can’t see what your little girl’s body looks like. Remember the old saying Dad boys will be boys.”

First of all, me trying to buy my daughter clothes is a non-starter. I don’t even know her size.

Second of all, I’ve always hated the phrase “Boys will be boys.” It’s simply not true. When I was a boy, I didn’t make inappropriate comments towards girls about their bodies. I just didn’t do it. And if I didn’t do it and other boys didn’t do it (trust me, I wasn’t alone), then this isn’t a boys-will-be-boys situation. It’s a misogynistic-jerkfaces-will-be-misogynistic-jerkfaces situation. It’s a learned behavior.

The cool thing is that a Misogynistic Jerkface can change and become something else. He can stop saying stupid stuff and become a man.

“Wonderful, another whiner that doesn’t like something that someone did… Tell her to get over it… Where is the picture of this girl? Is there something wrong or is there something right?”

I humbly submit I wasn’t whining. A lot of you also accused me of being offended. Honestly, I don’t really get offended. Taking offense is a waste of time. I identified a problem and suggested that it should be corrected. Isn’t that a good thing? It’s certainly not whining.

Wait, I just read that back… are you saying you want to see a picture of my daughter’s butt?

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 9.56.58 AM

“Butt, where’s the photo?”

You are asking to see a picture of my daughter’s butt. This is so weird.

“Well? Where’s the picture of her butt?”

Guys! She’s 13! Do you even think about this stuff before you type it?

“I can only imagine she is probably dressing provocatively.”

Why is that? Why is that my daughter dressed provocatively the only thing you can imagine as the reason for the boys’ comments? My wife had a great response to this. Let’s remember together:

“…actually she dresses extremely modestly. What is most concerning is that… people like you suggest it must be her fault this is why we have a rape culture.”

She makes a good point. Why isn’t the automatic go-to when unthinking boys spit out their garbage words, “I can only imagine those boys are rude and haven’t been taught proper respect for the opposite gender”? No, instead the Men of the Internet blame the girl. In the past couple of days, there have been lots of these comments directly blaming my daughter. For something boys did. This happens with nothing else.

“Sorry, officer, I was driving just fine until that cat jumped over that bush. I was so surprised, I swerved into oncoming traffic. Stupid cat, right? C’mon, let’s go find her together and arrest her!”

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 9.55.09 AM

“We do not have a rape culture, that is a myth.”

Y’know, honestly, I used to think rape culture was a myth, too. Then I posted a blog asking boys to stop talking about my daughter’s butt and you guys showed me I was very, very wrong.* It was like Nessie held a press conference only to tell us she’s not real.

Look, I still hate the term “rape culture.” It’s incendiary and off-putting (but then, so is rape). I keep thinking there’s got to be a better term for it, but it is a real thing–it’s this idea that how we talk about women has real consequences. Here’s one, partial definition:

In a rape culture, women perceive a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself. A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women as the norm . . .

In other words, violence against women starts with stuff like “Boys will be boys.” When you normalize inappropriate behavior as inevitable, you create an environment where people aren’t as responsible for that behavior–and that leads to more bad behavior. If a Junior High boy feels bold enough to cuss at my daughter and comment on her butt, if he isn’t stopped and corrected, where does that lead? Maybe he’ll grow out of it, but maybe that’s the beginning of a path that leads to rape. No one wakes up one day and says, “I think I will rape today.” But a violent disposition towards women starts somewhere. It starts with a dismissive and unsympathetic attitude towards women’s feeling and experiences that places the responsibility for bad behavior towards women on the women themselves.

Did that sound convoluted? That’s because it is.

“…Girls wear very little during the summer, use profane language…have sex/drug parties. It’s no wonder young boys think it’s perfectly alright to appraise a girls butt and anything else.”

I love the world that’s being painted here. So, basically, the Earth would be full of virtuous, righteous boys if it weren’t for the sexy, decadent girls making it so hard to not talk about their butts?

Look, do I think girls should dress modestly and that the sexualization of even the youngest girls is a problem? Of course I do! Do I think that absolves boys of bad behavior? No. That’s like saying my little brother took my toy away so I had to hit him. That’s baby reasoning.

Men of the Internet, your logic is that of a toddler.

“So, you never looked at a girls butt? Tell your slut daughter not to wear clothing that accentuates her butt whether it is a good one or a bad one. Out of sight is out of mind to a hormone raging boy.”

So much to unpack here. Let’s break out the numbers.

  1. I have looked at girls’ butts. You got me. I’m a heterosexual male and attraction leads me to appreciate the female form. However, I do make an effort to control my thoughts. In controlling my thoughts, I control my actions and, amazingly, I manage to not tell women what I think of their butts. I know, I know. It’s like, what? How do I do it?  I’m a freakin’ unicorn, that’s how. (Except I’m not. I just respect women, like so many other guys who would never think of calling a woman a “slut.” Speaking of which…)
  2. Straight up, you owe my daughter an apology. You don’t call any woman a slut. You don’t do it. It’s matter of respect. Men of the Internet, you messed up today. Big time.
  3. No girl who works so hard to find shorts that extend to her knees can ever be accused of wearing clothing that accentuates her butt. You have no idea who you’re talking about. You have no idea what my wife and I have taught our daughter.
  4. I’ll grant you that immodest clothing makes it difficult to keep thoughts pure, but out of sight is not out of mind. A hormone raging boy has a pretty good imagination.

I want to thank you, Men of the Internet. You’ve really opened my eyes. Rape culture is a real thing. Not a great name, but a real thing.

You’re so willing to give the boys the benefit of the doubt that you’ll characterize my modestly dressed daughter as “provocative” and a “slut” with zero evidence. Literally, all you knew about her from what I wrote was that she’s 13 and she told me what some boys said about her body. All you know about the boys is that they made some inappropriate remarks. How are they the automatic good guys in this scenario?

Do you get it? Do you see that the way women dress is not what this is about? It’s about how men choose to treat women, full stop. Women don’t make men treat them badly. That’s so asinine.

I think all this defending of the boys and all this demonizing and shaming of my daughter and girls in general comes down to this: you recognize yourselves and you feel attacked. Who are the boys who said these things to my daughter going to grow up to be? They’re going to grow up to be you. I’m talking about you and you don’t like it.

So, you strike back. And who’s your target? Why, the girls of course. That’s who you know to blame.

The anger boggles my mind.Why is the idea that we place more value on the feelings of our girls than the whims of boys with big mouths so offensive to you? What is it about what I’m saying that you’re really so upset about? I’m not a Progressive or a Social Justice Warrior or anything else you accused me of this past weekend. I’m a conservative Mormon dad who was raised with no sisters in a house where gun control was the devil’s program designed to take away our freedoms.

“This should stop something which has been going on since the dawn of time.”

You say this has been going on forever and it will never stop. Well, I think you’re probably right. As long as the perpetrators of this behavior–you–do nothing to teach your sons better, it will keep going.

But that doesn’t mean I’m wasting my time with these letters. Just because you’re not listening, doesn’t mean no one is listening. I’ve heard from a couple people already who were inspired to sit down with their sons to have a heart-to-heart and I’m told it went well. That’s some kids right there, changed.

Men of the Internet, I would like to humbly suggest that a heart-to-heart with your sons is what is needed. Even an immodestly dressed young woman is still, completely and thoroughly, a daughter of God. She has His love. She deserves your respect. If you’re not teaching your sons about these things, chances are, to one degree or another, she’s not getting that respect.

Whatever you decide to do, can you at least do this much for me?

Stop calling my daughter a slut.

Because that word is just the worst. Seriously.

Thanks,

Some Girl’s Dad

*Well done! You’ve probably given some Women’s Studies major just what she needed to complete her thesis.