Some people may see stick figures, but I see years of occupational therapy appointments. Some may see basic shapes any kindergartner could do, but I see hours of IEP meetings setting goals to achieve those skills. Others may see coloring outside the lines, but I see perseverance, progress and an opportunity to develop life skills. Do you see what I see?
When I first posted Marianna's drawings, I wondered if anyone would question why this mama was so proud; or, would they understand the artist has Down syndrome and it has taken 18 years and a small village to get us to this point? The truth is, like most mothers, I've been so focused on the task at the moment that I hadn't thought about all the challenges we've overcome to get here.
Recently, I was discussing this with a friend when she reminded me that I quit my job as a news anchor at the local t.v. station to take Marianna to therapy five times a week. Marianna was barely one year old. She had speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy and an early interventionist. We also took her regularly to Jacksonville and Orlando to see specialists. I remember how discouraged I felt watching Marianna try her best to pick up a cheerio. Her therapists were the most encouraging people. I know I got as much out of our sessions as Marianna did. These incredible people lifted me when I was down.
In the elementary years, the school brought in specialists to help find the right position to help Marianna write. They raised her arm, raised her seat and switched the pencil size to get the perfect grip. Despite our best efforts, she scribbled with her head buried in her desk for years. The other day she handed me her homework and I couldn't help but notice how perfect her handwriting was. We celebrated every milestone of this journey, but it never occurred to me what it might look like when our work bears fruit.
Marianna is passionate about her art. I’ve never seen her so self-motivated and determined about anything. Perhaps sheltering in the pandemic has fostered her creativity. Whatever it is, she is in a very happy place right now and is excited about starting a ministry. I’ve shared my fear with my husband that she might be like Forrest Gump who ran and ran and ran until one day he decided not to run anymore. If that’s the case, then I will be okay with it. Her art has already had an impact on me by opening my eyes to the many possibilities for her future.
The artist Pablo Picasso is quoted as saying “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once they grow up.” The hashtag #downsyndromeartist has introduced me to the many artists who have Down syndrome who are making a living and blessing others through their art. These entrepreneurs are advocates who remind us we all want the joy of making a positive contribution to society through our work. This is my heart’s desire for Marianna, whatever she chooses to do. This is why I treasure every therapist, teacher, friend, family member and social media supporter who sees what I see. I see God's artistry at work in Marianna! I see the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 being fulfilled in her life: "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."