The essential business of a child is to mimic, pretend, laugh, be silly, wrestle, play hide and seek, tell secrets, surprise, make jokes and stories. Adults are about details, accuracy, being serious, not violating norms, accepting other people’s judgments. Activity sparks the interest of a child and looks like work to an adult. Some would say the essential business of a child has been replaced by video games, computers, and being thrust into an adult world they aren’t ready for.
When a child giggles too much we tell them to be quiet. If they run in inappropriate places we tell them to sit down. If they play hide and seek at inopportune times we get angry because most likely we have lost them in the middle of a big store. If they pretend too much we question their mental health, if they mimic we are concerned they will never grow up, and if they are silly we teach them to be sensible.
As a mother of four children I understand the need to have an orderly home, safe children, and equip children to grow up as adults. I understand the need to teach children to sit quietly, stand in line, eat properly, not to laugh at serious ceremonies, not to run in the street, not to play hide and seek in the mall, make jokes that might hurt others, or tell stories that cover improper behavior. Did all the rules and teaching about right and wrong prevent them from taking risks? No. They are taking big risks and I believe it’s because I taught them they didn’t have to color between the lines.
Coloring Between the Lines
Halloween was never over for her. She always like to play dress up. As the years went by we collected costumes for her that she could use to dress up anytime. She had a strong creative nature so we developed a craft closet for her. A place for her crayons, markers, crayon books, Playdoh, and anything that would help her dive into the world that she wanted to create. Today she is a graphic designer. Last year her and her husband sold everything they owned that wouldn’t fit in their four door Ford and moved out of state. She wasn’t afraid. She followed her passion to create for a living and he followed his to run his own business.
He liked hard hats and things that resembled manual labor. He was a man’s man by the age of two. He wore hat’s everywhere he went. We bought storage tubs for them so he could collect what was important to him and wear them when the mood fit. He was a controlled and determined person from birth. We simply guided him until he left home. We encouraged him to color outside of the lines, but his idealistic beliefs kept him from it. We don’t do that. Yet our attempts to inject some creative freedom weren’t all for nothing. He left home to be a builder in the Navy at the age of 18. Today his semi-free spirit is looking to move wherever work takes him. He is preparing to take some big risks.
She is 20, a child of the 60’s born in the 90’s. She likes the music I grew up with more than I do. We are certain when she gets married the wedding will look like a Fleetwood Mac concert. She acts upon every idea she gets without hesitation. She is creative in her own unique way her focus mainly being this needs done. You need a sign made for the wedding–done! We have always been her funders. She has always known what she needed to accomplish her goals. We simply funded her expeditions as a child. Her determination, hard work and creativity were here own, but along the way we tried to provide her with the tools she needed to express who she was. Last year she got back from a three month trip to Africa, then New York, and now if she can sit still long enough she will earn her English degree and be off to teach English in Dubai.
Our last child. Well he is a tech guy. His imagination is stretched by reading a good article, books, and video’s. He is stimulated by people and thrives off of interaction. He is free when he is with friends and they travel on adventures. We had to explain to him that it’s hard for us when he wants to spelunk and we don’t know what cave he is in, when he drives to another state and forgets to tell us (he is in high school), or when he goes on bike rides late at night. Hey, can you let old mom and dad know? We may be almost empty nesters, but we need to know. He was encouraged not to color within the lines. He takes risks. Mom, I might go overseas for school. Ok son. I bet somewhere over there you will find your sister.
Somehow we have to find a balance. A balance between being able to sit quietly and stand in a line and running through the yard barefoot. We have to remember that we don’t need to color in between the lines. We just need to color. Creating art isn’t about fitting into someone’s mold. Creating our life isn’t either. There is a time to worry about the details and there is a time to play hide and seek in the mall.
When you create–run and don’t look back. Let the color bleed over and your imagination go wild! There is a place for lines, details, accuracy, seriousness, and norms, but there is also a place for pretend, laughing, being silly, wrestling, playing hide and seek, telling secrets, and making up stories. Want to take more risks? Color outside the lines.