In a desperate attempt to get my two-year-old daughter, Marion, off the iPad, I’ve been encouraging her to color more.
It’s been a losing battle. So once a day, I sit down with her, a coloring book, and some crayons, and we pick a page to work on together.
She will color for a minute and then hand me the crayon and say, “I can’t do it. You do it.” Then I look at the picture and my half is done carefully within the lines, while hers is just kind of scribbled all over the place.
The other day, we were working on an Easter coloring book and she did her usual surrendering of the crayon over to me. I hesitated for a minute, and then I scribbled all over that Easter Bunny. Marion was delighted. She picked up another crayon, and by the time we were done, the Easter Bunny was a scribbled, orange, green, and pink beautiful mess. We put our crayons down and smiled at each other knowingly. Then I kissed her and told her it was wonderful, because it was.
It was real and messy and sort of a disaster—much like real life.
It occurred to me in that moment that Marion was looking at my safe and cautious coloring within the lines, and without realizing it, I was teaching her that that way was the “right way.” In order for it to be good, it had to be within the lines and perfect. The colors had to be accurate, and the cleaner and more cautious we are, the better. I decided right then and there that I wasn’t going to put those expectations on her.
What if instead of teaching her that perfection is the goal, I taught her that her effort is the goal? And more importantly, that her creative effort is the goal. Because there was beauty and authenticity in this orange, scribbled bunny—and if she can follow her creative desires with coloring, then perhaps she can carry that into other areas of her future. A future that will hopefully be filled with adventure, wonder, and spontaneity, faced without fear or hesitation.
If she learns now to trust her own guidance, instead of what society says is right, how many more chances might she take instead of letting her insecurity or fear dictate her choices? How many more chances would we all take in our lives if we didn’t have that little voice in our heads telling us not to color outside the lines? Or if we weren’t constantly comparing ourselves to this supposed societal norm that is built on perfection being the goal? How many more risks would we take if we weren’t afraid of “failing”?
We all have that voice telling us that we have to be perfect. But in reality, there is no such thing. I strongly believe the whole point of life—of all of this—is to learn, love, and be happy. The more we learn, the happier we will be. And the happier we are, the more effortlessly we love.
We cannot learn if we are perfect—and in fact, some of the most beautiful moments in my life have come from my most epic “wrong turns.” We cannot learn if we don’t try and mess up, only to try again and get it right.
I have admittedly made some wrong turns in my adult life. Most of these decisions were based on fear—I lacked the confidence and the courage to be different. I lacked the faith to take a leap and trust that my angels would appear, so to speak. And, somewhere along the way, I lost the ability to follow that inner compass that is within us all.
If there is one lesson in this world that I want to teach my children, it’s to never lose that compass. The more I learn from my experiences, the more I find myself coming back to that place that I know is right. The place that knows that coloring outside the lines is bold and exciting. I find myself wanting to take more chances and follow my desires, regardless of other people’s opinions.
The more time I spend watching Marion follow her intuition, the more I am reminded that I have my own. So together we will do this. She will help me color outside the lines, and I will help her color inside the lines, and somewhere along the way, we will find a balance that brings us both peace and joy.
I am thankful for these children of mine. Thankful that they are the messiest, most overwhelming parts of my life. Thankful that they bring me back home to where I’ve been waiting for myself this whole time.
Author: Christa Warnock
Image: Author’s Own; Tanja Heffner/Unsplash
Editor: Nicole Cameron