In case you didn’t know, I’m in love with dragons, specifically the Western kind with talons of an eagle, spikes from head-to-toe, fabulous wings of leather, a tail barbed and arrow-tipped, a breath of fire, acid, or ice. Think J.R. Tolkien or J.K. Rowling.
When adults used to ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, the first answer I could remember giving, thanks to Anne McCaffrey, was a dragonrider! Her protagonist, Lessa, continues to be the heroine I hope to be.
Naturally, the first stuffed animal my kids received from me was a dragon. Both Kyra and Ethan believe that dragons protect them from the monsters under their bed.
Kyra sleeps on the back of a spring green dragon, a marvelous pillow complete with soft white spikes and a tail that wraps around her body. She won’t go to bed unless I cocoon her with a How to Train Your Dragon blanket.
Ethan’s first word was dragon. This clever three-year-old knows that he can wrestle a toy out of me at a store as long as it has anything to do with this magical creature.
So you can imagine my tears of excitement and sadness when Kyra came home from school the other day with this drawing.
My initial reaction: A teacher or classmate drew this for Kyra. See Confession Part I and Confession Part II. But after asking her a dozen questions about when, where, and how she created this masterpiece, I realized that somehow I had missed a major milestone in my daughter’s artistic development.
“Wow, did anyone help you with these details: the spikes, the talons, the teeth?”
“Nope,” she beamed. “I did it all by myself!”
When Kyra was taking art classes twice a week at the Pacific Northern Academy, her teacher Ms. Jaeger, had reminded me, “Encouragement is all kids need to be creative because when they get older inevitably they will have a habit of being self-critical.”
I showered Kyra with kisses and hugs and displayed her first dragon drawing proudly on our window sill, along with a red crayoned heart she gifted to me the day before as soon as she jumped off the bus, “Mommee, in art class, I made a gift for the whole family.”
Biting my lip, I resumed serving Kyra an after-school snack while pondering whether I should frame her first dragon artwork. I worried that it would always remind me that I had been absent.
Confession: This summer, I never had time to make art supplies accessible in my household. I’d like to blame it on the move, but perhaps the deeper truth is that I did not place artistic development as high on my list of parental duties as academic pursuits.
I figured that they could simply do art at school. About a month ago, a caretaker at the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Child Development Center hourly care had approached me and said, “We need more parents like you.”
When I looked surprised, she said, “Look what your daughter gave me?” She pointed to the wall which displayed an elaborate 3D construction of a nearly life-sized eagle.
“Kyra, did you do this?” I asked.
“Yep, I’m making one for you too.”
The caretaker thanked me for raising two of the most delightful children to teach. As she explained in detail the rapid artistic progress of both my kids over the summer, I forgot to breathe.
I did not deserve her compliment. Teachers had made all the difference in my children’s art education. Probably the only thing I contributed was the subject matter or artistic genes.
That evening, I wrapped a gift for a six-year-old birthday party with packing paper. I invited Kyra and Ethan to decorate it. To my astonishment, Ethan had graduated from lines to shapes. He articulated that he had drawn Batman and his Batmobile. Kyra whipped out several dragons, twisting along each side of the package.
This time, I made sure to contribute. “Kyra, would you like me to show you how to add wings?”
She clapped her hands. “Yeah!”
I only had time to outline five webbed “fingers” each ending with a claw when she grabbed the crayon out of my hand and said, “Got it.”
Kyra and Ethan were so proud of their creation that the next day at the birthday party, they toured their masterpiece and spun complex tales about Batman riding dragons to save the world. When the birthday boy ripped off the wrapping paper, the three of us looked at each other with pouty lower lips.
In preparation for tomorrows show Young Artists & Arts Ed in Alaska, how have you been surprised by the artwork your child brings home from school?