A take on family estrangement

Building a collection such as CDIC’s often means bumping into difficult questions and hurdles. Children’s drawings have nearly all vanished for centuries, even millennia. There are basically two reasons for that. One is that there is little value attached to them, and by extension children, because of the temporary nature of childhood. Either they grow too fast, or we just cannot wait for them to grow up. The other reason is that even if great value is given to learning and art made by children, it is generally a personal value shared and enjoyed in private among family members, not with the community. It is for the family scrapbook only.

In our efforts to expand the conversation about preservation, we wonder what triggers some individuals and some parents to hang on to those fragile objects. We also ask ourselves, is there a best time for families to contribute items to the collection? It is hard to say. The best time is probably when both the parent and the child agree to let the original image leave home. That is in the case of a young child. If the child has become an adult and has childhood art, likely preserved by a parent, this person may have lost interest in the image, or may want to honor the parent who kept it safe.

When a family keeps child art pieces for a long time, it looks like a positive sign for their preservation. It likely means that the initial impulse sprung from a strong bond between the child and the parent. It could however turn out to be the opposite, and the longer a family keeps the art, the more endangered it becomes. This is because like any other relationships, family bonds can fluctuate over time.

Adult children sometime grow apart from their parents or their siblings. When this happens, physical objects that they shared in the past come to take different meanings. The value and meaning of any art from childhood change, and may become dispensable. Family estrangement, when it happens, can put conservation of children’s art at risk.

The decision to preserve or not children’s art is and will remain in the hands of individuals and parents. Our participatory approach to collection development aims to add a collective or community layer to the equation. Our hope is that this will stimulate dialogue between generations, and cultural awareness.

Family estrangement has been under the scrutiny of a small number of scholars over the past ten years. They inform us that several factors can bring family members to stop interacting with one another. Family members can keep their distances for various periods of time, from a few months, to years, or for life. They can sometime grow apart gradually, without even explicitly knowing why. A pioneer on the subject is Dr. Kylie Agllias, adjunct lecturer at the University of NewCastle, in Australia. Her book Family estrangement: A matter of perspective (Routledge, 2016) is a go to reference. Gerontologist Dr.Karl Pillemer of Cornell University also authored the book Fault lines: Fractured families and how to mend them (Penguin, 2022). His book has a significant portion on resilience and reconciliation. In 2015, the British organization Stand Alone conducted a groundbreaking survey. Over eight hundred people responded. Their findings were published in the report by psychologist Dr. Lucy Blake, of the Centre for Family Research at University of Cambridge: Hidden voices: Family estrangement in adulthood, and available online. It is most revealing of some aspects of modern life.

Family members. By Léo, c1969s. Source: CDIC-CIDE.

Parents networking

Home schooling the little ones came as a surprise and a steep learning curve for parents this last spring. The challenge has been no less demanding for parents who happen to be teachers. Home schooling must continue to be on everybody’s mind, so kids find the learning opportunities they so deserve.

Stay at home and working parents have long been engaged in online groups and sharing blogs and information. As the notion of web community is more meaningful than ever during physical distancing, we encourage parents to engage with other parents and share each others’ insights. Here is a fantastic blog we found, Parent: Smile and Grow. It has the advantage of being trilingual. On it, a great article by Clio, on children drawings. Let us hear how you like it!

Header, Parent: Smile and Grow. Source: parent-smileandgrow.com, 14 July 2020.
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