October 13, 2009

A is for Artist

Alex loves to draw and paint. Her particular passion is coloring. Last night she sat at the kitchen table and colored for two hours. She had been given a homework assignment that involved color coding body parts and she poured her heart into it. I love her passion.

My sweet daughter can make almost anything out of an empty soda box and paper. I keep our house stocked with scotch tape, duct tape and packing tape - or her creations can not be made. Although this can be an expensive hobby – anything that keeps her away from the Disney channel (except food!) is good with me.

When Alex was younger we signed her up for a couple of art classes at the local park district recreation center. I was still new as a parent of a child with special needs and wanted to give her the same opportunities as Courtney, and I still do. I called up the park district and asked to talk to the pre-school program director. I was met with support and encouragement. These devoted art teachers encouraged and included Alex from the first class. Some even suggested she had talent. That might be stretching it a bit - I would say she has passion.

This was the beginning of Alex's appreciation for fine art - at least her definition of it. She went from basic craft classes to drawing, water coloring and pottery. I still have all these creations in a box – somewhere. We do have one artwork proudly displayed in her room – the paper mache bird that won first place in the middle school art show.

Art is one subject that Alex excels in - and in that success comes confidence and praise from her peers. I recognize she is not the best artist in any classroom - there are only a few talents at any one time. But in art class, or any other crafts class, Alex is not the worst. We often get accolades from her teachers and her classmates, and it make me feel good too.

Last Father's Day Alex gave her father a canvas painting of a heart. Inside the heart are the words "Dad Rocks". The clever thing about this painting is that when you hold it up to the light - which took me until the other day to figure out - there is a shadow. This shadow is Alex's self portrait. Now I am not sure what the child psychiatrist would say about this - but to me it means that she is part of her father and her heart belongs to him. It really moved me when I discovered this.

As an aside - next year she may have to change it to "John Rocks" as he has not earned back his name of Dad. We are still working on this…..

Art will always be a part of Alex's life, just like music. These are the two disciplines that can keep her concentration for long periods of time. Perhaps it is part of the “stop and smell the roses” syndrome that accompanies down syndrome. Perhaps, that extra chromosome is really an art and music chromosome and responsible for this extra sensitivity to the finer things in life. I do not know the answer to this.

But, once again I have learned from my remarkable daughter – I believe Alex has it right.

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