Yesterday, my son asked me to color with him.
I told him I would, but I felt busy and tried to put it off at first. Finally, I sat down with him and asked him to choose me a page to color. He chose me a very nice page, where the smartest of the three little pigs was building her brick house. The instant my crayon hit the page, a flood of positive memories washed over me. Then I wondered why it had been so long since I had taken the time to color!
I remembered how much I loved coloring as a child, and how proud I was of how good I eventually became at coloring. I remembered my mom sitting down with me and teaching me her strategies for staying in the lines and coloring beautiful pictures, and how much I admired the pictures she colored for me. Instantly, I felt grateful for deciding to take the time to color with my son - for my sake as well as for his.
I colored that first picture logically: yellow for the hair, pink for the piggy face and ears, purple for the dress. Then I let him convince me to help him finish a picture he had already started. There was already no hope for it being colored logically, so this time I tried something different. I told him to choose colors for me, and I would choose what to color with them. The result was a wolf with blue fur, orange clothing, a different color blue nose, a third color blue tail (I didn't see the tail when I had the fur crayon), a pink mouth, and lime green teeth.
I recently read that a certain someone was an art therapist, and had wondered what an art therapist wold do, and how what they did could help another person. I still don't know for sure, but after my coloring experience, I have a couple of guesses - which may be helpful to you and me as we work through the challenges and uncertainties of experiencing life along side a sibling with a disability.
Both pages were freeing and invigorating, for different reasons. The first page was exciting because I got to put the "right" colors on the blank picture, or in other words, I personally bestowed order and justice to the universe. I got to decide what "right" was and what was "good" and then make it happen, without having to deal with anyone else's ignorance, sage advice, judgmental statements, or even dissenting opinions. I even enjoyed the added excitement of being observed by an adoring fan.
The second page was exciting because I was breaking rules. No one was telling me what to do, no one was telling me I had done it wrong, and I wasn't hurting anyone - the perfect release. I took what I was given and made the best of it. Life was good.
This made me think of my book for siblings of individuals with disability. As one of those siblings, I know that we have times in our lives with our family members where we could really benefit from coloring book therapy. Whether you long for the security of having control over something in our world, wish you could make someone see the "right" way who is either stubbornly or innocently missing the memo, or just want a harmless way to break out of the role of the child who does everything right for once, this coloring stuff is excellent!
My favorite thing to color is in actual coloring books. Their pages are just the right texture for various shades of crayon coloring, which is my favorite way to color (drawing is a different story!). Coloring books are super cheap at dollar stores, but can also be found - with varying levels of quality - almost anywhere that sells anything for children. But, if you want to mix and match, or already spent your allowance for the week, or just don't want other family members to tease you for taking up coloring, you can print off your own coloring pages. Just search "free coloring pages" online.
You might consider coloring with your sibling. I can almost promise they'll appreciate the attention and thought - even if they decline your offer.
Then, once you've tried it, tell us how you liked it in the comments below. Happy coloring!
Author of The Crystal Puzzle: My Life With A Sister With Asperger's, due to be published in Spring of 2014.