An eight-year-old boy was sent home from school last week for drawing himself on a cross, leading us to recall (and solicit) things we wrote or drew that freaked out the adults around us.
The boy, a Massachusetts second-grader, was asked to draw something that reminded him of Christmas. He drew a stick figure on a cross, with X's for eyes, and, when questioned, said the figure was himself. The school ordered the kid to get a psychological evaluation, but his father Chester Johnson explained that he had recently seen a statue of the crucifixion and was probably just drawing from memory. Johnson is considering sending his son to a different school, saying, "You can't walk back in an establishment that didn't have confidence in you ... and continue to do business with them. He's been excluded from all the other kids, man."
Johnson sounds like he took parenting classes from the Dude, but he may have the right idea. Children's drawings have become a stock horror trope, signaling impending doom in everything from The Ring to Battlestar Galactica. This may be partly because of evidence that kids reveal abuse through their drawings. But some have questioned whether drawings are a reliable marker of child abuse, and one thing's for sure: kids say, draw, and do a lot of weird shit, and it doesn't necessarily mean they have an abusive home life, or a Jesus complex.
I was a pretty innocent kid, and my drawings of giant eyeballs on legs, while odd, didn't set off any alarm bells. My brother was and is extremely reticent, and apart from his perplexing "my brain is like it has two sticks in it" speech (age 3), I don't remember him freaking anybody out either. But we did grow up with a kid whose drawings of his family looked adorably normal — except that "Mommy" always wore a blue bra instead of a shirt. It turned out that his drawings revealed not his mother's actual sartorial choices, but his abiding love for Princess Jasmine. Tracie writes, "in the third grade I made a Mother's Day card at school where I drew a picture of my mom looking maniacal wearing curlers and a bathrobe on the front, and on the inside I wrote a poem about how I still love her, even though she hits me with a wooden spoon." And Anna H. says that when she was eight or nine, she wrote "sex object" on her inner thigh, causing her mom to weep out of the fear that she'd failed at feminist parenting. But now Anna runs a website where we take Perez Hilton to task for writing things like that (and worse) on photos of women. So I guess what I'm saying is, just because a kid makes a weird Jesus drawing doesn't mean he should be excluded from all the other kids, man.