Monday, April 22, 2013

Coloring Outside the Lines

Coloring with Jonah in his Star Wars book this week I told him, "you're doing a great job coloring inside the lines". His response? "But I don't have to color inside the lines, right?" I quickly responded, "No, you don't have to." As I watched him I thought more about his question...

Boba Fett was sporting chartreuse and purple, the latter is his favorite color. Before I blurted out what color Boba Fett should be, I stopped and thought, why would I do that? Chartreuse and purple are way more interesting, albeit NOT historically accurate. Maybe I want him to imagine a world where animals and robots and flowers can be any color he dreams up.

Does it really matter if he is coloring inside the lines with the appropriate colors? Does it prove that his fine motor skills are advancing at an age-appropriate pace? Does it mean that he knows the "right" colors? Does it show that he can follow instructions? Does it mean he is just like every other (almost) 4 year old? What if I don't want him to be like every other 4 year old? What if I want him to believe that you can color a picture however you want? It's art, after all. If I start policing his creativity on this basic level, then what am I teaching him?

This brief moment in time left me questioning .... a lot of things. How do creativity and individuality take shape in humans and how do they get squashed? Mostly, I worry if I'm parent enough to give my child the confidence he needs to stay true to himself. I don't think its a stretch to go from "coloring" to life-long independent thinking. Okay, maybe it is. But I can't think of anything more important. It defines values, political/religious beliefs, relationships, and career choices.