A few years ago, one of our kids was working on an extra-credit school assignment which entailed getting the hand print and foot print of each member of the family. When it came time for one of the kids to put his hand in the paint, he told me that he didn’t want to. “Oh come on, what’s the big deal?” I said, while shoving his hand into the paint. I had no idea that he was truly feeling anxious and to say I was surprised when he then threw up everywhere would be an understatement.
We learned that day about sensory issues. Oh my, did we ever. And, of course, I felt terrible because I had belittled his needs even though I had no idea that he really meant it when he said that he did NOT want to put his hand in the paint. He really meant it. From that day, I learned a lot about sensory issues and about which triggers make this child anxious and physically ill. I try to respect his needs and reactions and I certainly don’t belittle them like I did that winter day.
Flash forward a bunch of years, and this child has become quite talented at pencil drawing. For the last year or more I’ve tried to find a class where he could learn pencil drawing techniques, to no avail. But I would not be deterred, because I felt that it was important to find him an artistic outlet and some personalized attention. Finally, I found a talented friend who was willing to start a class just for him. She wanted the class to start with pencil drawing and then to move into clay. “Ok,” I said hesitantly, “But he has sensory issues and I can’t imagine he’ll participate in the clay. If he wants to participate that’s great, and if he just wants to keep drawing, that’s fine too.”
While she was willing to offer the class just for him, we managed to pull together four kids who were all interested. Yeah! My son made some great drawings leading up to their first clay work. And then, when it was time to introduce clay, the teacher and I both hoped it would go well; we were both prepared that it wouldn’t necessarily. He declared that he wanted to try it, and recently he came home with his first finished product.
It took my breath away. First of all, I was so proud of him for working through a phobia and finishing a project that we thought he might not even attempt. It’s amazing to watch kids develop and challenge themselves, sometimes beyond where we are even trying to challenge them. I think it’s very important that these challenges take place in a safe environment where he gets to choose how much to push himself or hold back.
Secondly, I had the weirdest feeling of deja vu. Both of my grandmothers were talented artists and no one else has been…until my kids. One grandmother painted with watercolors, and a few of my boys have shown talent that is similar to hers. My other grandmother loved to sculpt and I have great memories of the many sculptures that adorned her house including a few of cats.
And there he stood, with the most beautiful, perfectly formed cat sculpture. He doesn’t really know about Nana’s talent and he certainly wasn’t trying to copy her or her style in any way. But there she was, three generations later, coming through in her great-grandson’s creation.
And now a piece of my Nana gets to be in my home, embodied in the sculpture created by my son with sensory issues. What a blessing on so many levels.