My mom says I never liked coloring when I was a kid.  Since I could never stay in the lines, I’m sure she was right.  As much as I wanted to be an artist, I didn’t have it in me.  I only have one memory of coloring as a child.

I was four, coloring at the kitchen table with my little brother and my mom.  I only remember a snippet of what I was saying.  “And then – What’s his name again, Mommy?”  “Friendly Giant,” my mother answered in an exhausted tone that only comes from answering the same question over and over and over.  “Yes, Friendly Giant.  Him.-”  Ok, so I was so disappointed in having a baby brother that I couldn’t remember his name, and it is the only memory I have of coloring.

But when I was fifteen, I gained a girl cousin that was my age.  After we got to know one another (and I got to keep the “The Eldest Girl” title because I was two months older), we found we liked each other.  My alternative music to her rap.  My unique but slightly conservative look (thanks to overbearing parents) to her wanna-be rap girl look.  My goody-two-shoes manner to her dumb rebellious teenage streak.  In other words, if we hadn’t been thrown together because of marriage, we would never have spoken to each other.

My cousin was an artist.  She could draw anything.  When we spent Saturday nights at her stepmom/my aunt’s house in the middle of nowhere, we would color as we tried to find some common ground in music and gossip about people the other girl would never ever meet (which allowed us to get a lot of crap out of our systems).  I think my cousin would have prefered drawing, but since I couldn’t, she pulled out stacks of coloring books and tons of crayons.  Soon I was buying coloring books and asking my dad (in the sweet I’m-your-baby-daughter tone) to make copies of the books at work so that I didn’t have to ruin my books and I could color them over and over again.  “My daughter is turning sixteen to six,” my dad announced as I finished receiving the coloring books I got for my birthday.  I smiled.  It didn’t help that I started collecting My Little Stars stuff again and carrying a My Little Stars tin around for a purse.

When I think of coloring, I think of my teenage days.  Which I shouldn’t when I’m trying to convince the boys to color.  Because they can’t stay in the lines.  They think it’s a waste of time.  Only lately has Tornado E shown any interest in drawing.  Tornado S hates art.  Who hates art?  Tornado A is my remaining hope for an artist as he asks for paper and crayons to use while his brother’s do their workbooks.

But they need to color and draw.  I think drawing is a useful skill, and right now the older boys  have to color for school.  Tornado S could use the extra time, strengthening his hands as he did art.  I would hate for him to hate art.  I’ve been suggesting coloring and drawing as quiet activities all summer without any interest from the boys.

Today as Tornado E finished his workbooks, I was bored sitting in detention with him.  The story I’m working on needs a re-write at parts, which requires concentration.  I finished reading the family craft magazine.  Twitter and Facebook were quiet.  The news wasn’t very interesting.  I got up and carried over a dozen Star Wars coloring books and then went upstairs to retrieve a box filled with crayons of every color.  (Left overs from the Great Crayon Massacre of 2009.)  I sat down and started coloring a Yoda.

Tornado S came over and watched, suggesting colors but declining to join me.

Tornado E finished his workbook pages and moved to watch me.  “Can I color the BX series robot?”  I pulled out Yoda from the book and handed Tornado E the book.  He sat down and started coloring, telling us why he used this color and which one he would use next.  When I was done, he kept coloring another page.

I guess the moral of the story is that sometimes you have to go sideways when parenting.  God, I wish I was better at that.  I prefer to go throw the wall head on.

Parenting is hard.


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