Natalie was awarded a certificate as the Best Artist in her second grade class last week. It was no surprise to those of us who have been following her awesome creative output for some time. The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree, and Natalie definitely has taken her Mom's inspiring example as a point of departure for her own original way of seeing the world and expressing herself in a visual medium.
In fact, Natalie's talents are so precocious that at times it has been intimidating for Diego, whose challenges with autism included a delayed ability to grasp a pencil and write or draw. For years he didn't express much interest in Art, ceding that territory entirely to his older sister, and when he did engage it was often only to demand of her to be a gun-for-hire executing his ideas for drawings (rows of tools and lists of numbers being his favorites). Natalie happily obliged, and the status quo side-stepped any typical sibling competition or rivalry.
But all that has changed as Diego has made such amazing progress this last year, really coming into his own and finding it easier and more comfortable to express his own unique independent ideas and to communicate with others, including his interest in picking up pencil and paper and drawing his own artwork.
This explosion has been exciting to watch, and has mushroomed as Elsa and I decided to enroll both Diego and Natalie in separate weekend art classes at a wonderful local studio this Fall. Natalie's Panda painting and Diego's pencil character sketch are just the tip of the iceberg of their prodigious output which is rapidly filling up our home.
It's funny how the onset of their sibling rivalry, which can be intense and competitive and at times conflict-filled and is usually a headache for parents, has been such a pleasure for Elsa and I to witness. At least for now we just can't complain or be annoyed by the kids' typical power struggles, as it is the very fact that they ARE typical, and the huge change that represents, that we celebrate.
The kids get mad at us as sometimes we can't help but laugh when they turn up the heat on their artistic rivalry like some pint-sized Van Gogh and Gauguin, and of course we should be taking their feelings seriously.
Yet the real artistry of these two is how they have figured out a way to get along so well in spite of all of the challenges and obstacles that come along with having a child with special needs as a brother and a child with special talents as an older sister. I wish we could take more credit for it, but these two usually show us the way when it comes to the Art of having a loving family.