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“Want to dooo bluuuue paaaaaint!” I have heard my daughter Beth, who is almost 5 years old, make this request hundreds of times. I grab a role of paper towels from the kitchen, roll up my sleeves, and head to the den where her much-loved and often-used easel sits.
We start the well-established paint process. “Okay, what do we need first?”, I say to Beth. “Your smock!”, she says excitedly. I prompt her to reverse the pronoun and she exclaims, “My smock!” I help her put on the smock and help her to ask for the brush and paint cup. Then I ask, “What color paint do you want? Red, blue, or green?” ”Green,” she says. I stop dead in my tracks. For 2.5 years the answer has been blue, so the answer green comes as a great surprise.
I repeat the paint choices in a different order and, again, she chooses green. Wow, she is finally starting to move on from blue paint. Like every parent, I feel a mixture of excitement, pride, and sadness at a milestone achievement. But unlike many parents, because Beth has autism, some of the milestones I celebrate are a bit different than the norm.
To mark the milestone, I decide we must make a painting that I will call “Homage to Blue Paint” to capture this bit of her childhood before she moves on completely. I have had this painting in my head for about a year. I want it to show Beth being herself, my expectations of parenting Beth, and the merging of my neurotypical world with her autism world. It sounds complicated, but it is simply one part Beth, one part me, with overlap in the middle.