For this series, The Anxious Child’s Alphabet, I focused on my children’s experience of the world and my experience as their mother. My oldest child has sensory integration disorder, ADHD, tendencies towards depression, and is intellectually gifted. All three of my children are creative, funny, thoughtful, and ‘twice exceptional’, which means being very bright/GT while simultaneously having special needs.
In my first decade as a parent, I found I had to put most of my energy into not just loving and guiding, but learning to understand my children. I stretched myself to learn as much as possible about how their brains worked so that I could be the buffer and the guide they needed between themselves and the world. The old systems for child rearing and education didn’t fit so I did my best to bridge the gap. A side effect of this grooling work was that it gobbled up my time and hollowed out my identity as an artist.
A state of emergency can only be maintained for so long. By the end of this period, I felt wraithlike, desperate to make art again. I began work on The Anxious Child’s Alphabet to document and explore my children’s and my own complex experience of the world. My first muse was my oldest son who had ‘existential angst’ beginning at age 3. He ruminated about war, viruses, injustice, mortality, religion, and so forth. In Pre-K his favorite book was about Martin Luther King, Jr and the civil rights movement. The kinds of images generally designed to represent children’s experience had little relevance.
So I began the series, planning to complete it in a year. However, IEP meetings, counselor’s appointments, the never ending quest for supportive schools, and beginning and maintaining my career as an educator, continued to gobble up my time. My middle son was diagnosed with Autism, my youngest with dyslexia. In the end I learned to be satisfied with random odds and ends of time I could grab and hoard to do the work. It ended up taking me seven years to finish the series. As my sons aged and changed and learned, the alphabet gave me a thread to follow, from letter to letter, through painful periods and happy times. I hope you enjoy it.