With my first child, I looked forward to the day he would be old enough to sit and color in a coloring book. This seemed like such a pleasant, harmless, relaxing kind of activity, but that day never came. Not only did he never seem to relax, but he also flatly refused to have any truck with coloring books. When he did color, he had to go his own way all over the page, flamboyantly and dramatically.
By the time my second son came along, I had been educated, and realized that coloring books inhibit the creative impulse with children. We, of course, in the light of my new understanding, had none in our house. However, I had a little difficulty at times when we went visiting. My second son was intrigued with coloring books and insisted, whether the child he was visiting liked it or not, on carefully coloring pages he found in their books.
At home he just didn't color much. He liked trucks and cars and blocks. Finding occupation was never a problem for him. I remember vividly the week he learned about the decimal system in first grade. The fact that if one knew the numbers from one to ten one could count indefinitely fascinated him, and he set aside two hours one Saturday morning for the express purpose of writing the numbers from one to one thousand. (His Saturdays were always tightly scheduled with important projects of that nature).
So I just didn't worry about coloring. Then I went to a lecture where the county art supervisor eloquently insisted on the responsibility of parents to bring out the creative art potential in their children. "Isn't it possible," I questioned, "that some children just are not artistically inclined?"
"Of course, some children are more so than others," she agreed, "but every child has some creative art potential, and if your child doesn't show this, it is because he has not been properly motivated."
"What is to be done, then?" I replied.
"Give him some paper and ask him to draw you a picture," she continued, "then when he has finished it, ask him to explain what it is"
Obediently I went home, got out some crayons and paper, gave them to my second son and asked him to draw me a picture. He took them with much interest and disappeared in his room where he remained for a long time. "I guess the supervisor was right," I thought, "He just needed a little encouragement."
Finally I sought him out, eager to see what could have so absorbed him for such a long time. He wasn't finished yet, but he proudly displayed his project. There it was, block after tiny block, each colored a different color! It so happened that the only paper I could find when I came home from the lecture was graph paper. This he liked very much. It was pretty, all those little blocks a different color, I'm sure he must have been confused by my laughing response.
No doubt the art supervisor knew what she was talking about, but the difficulty was she didn't know my son. He draws with more than adequate skill today when drawing is what he needs to do, but drawing is not his medium of creative self-expression. He lives creatively instead. As the smell of incense, which he burns five days in succession before each vacation, drifts slowly up from his basement domain, I relax and say to myself, "I'm glad the books aren't written about my children. It's much more fun to discover the children myself. Each child is a new frontier waiting to be explored making each day a new adventure.