I am 35 years old and just a *little* particular . . . about many, many things. So, when I color, I color inside the lines. I distinctly remember coloring with one of my older cousins when I was 6 or 7 and being impressed and envious of her coloring. Not only did she stay inside the lines ALL THE TIME, but her pictures had shading and contour. They were lovely, and I couldn’t replicate it. Now I’m all grown up, and I can, so I do.
Before a few years ago, it had been a while since I’d colored. I hadn’t had a lot of need to color since college (although there was more of that kind of thing as a dance instructor than you might imagine). And even after Benjamin was born, it took me a while to get on the coloring wagon — I wasn’t sure what was the “right” age to start things like coloring and I was worried that he’d either make a mess or eat the crayons and end up in the emergency room (no kidding, I was actually worried about those things). So, it took a while for us to start coloring.
Once I started coloring with Benjamin, it was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it — it was something fun and relatively creative for us to do together, and it’s pretty simple. As moments in my busy day went, my moments spent coloring were some of the easiest. I got to color in the lines, and make my pictures all pretty and perfect.
And as a result, I ended up with a 3 year old who doesn’t like to color “because he isn’t good at it”. Oops. The first couple of times he said this, I kind of blew it off — I mean, I’d say something encouraging and supportive, but I didn’t pay much attention. I figured maybe this was normal. The I started to realize that he was comparing his pictures to mine, and finding them lacking, didn’t want to play anymore.
Not my best mommy moment.
Recently, I started taking my lead from Benjamin. I color very much the same way he does. It isn’t about what color something is “supposed” to be — you just use whatever color you like, or whatever you haven’t used in a while, or whatever is immediately at hand. “Success” is measured by coloring as much of the image as possible, as enthusiastically as possible. Extra credit is given for exuberance that causes marks far beyond the lines. Coloring on someone else’s completed image enhances it, rather than detracting from it.
It isn’t really about letting go of attempts at perfection, but rather about enthusiastically cultivating imperfection. I love it. It’s way more fun and fraught with far less stress than my old method. Especially because now it’s something we all do together — and it’s fun again, for all of us.