Character Over Coloring: A Lesson On What Really Matters


Can I tell you guys a quick story?

A few days ago, I walked into Ellie’s preschool to pick her up and saw these scarecrows on the wall. Each child was given a plate and told to make a face on it. They were great. The kids had drawn two eyes, clean lined mouths, and button noses. Pretty impressive for four, until I noticed Ellie’s. Her plate was covered in random purple, gray and pink scribbles.

I wish I could tell you my first thought was a good one, but it wasn’t. I internally panicked. It sounded like this: “Oh my gosh. Where did I go wrong! I should be coloring more with her at home. I don’t have time to color at home. I am so embarrassed. I hope the parents don’t look over at Ellie’s. They are. Shoot. Now they think I’m a terrible mom, and Ellie can’t even color a face…..I am such a failure as a mom.”

Ellie runs up to me, bulldozes into my leg, forcing me to shut off the comparison tape. “Mama! I’m so excited to see you! Do you see my scarecrow?! Aren’t you proud of me?! I used gray for you, your favorite color, purple for Beeba, because it’s her favorite, and pink for me because they didn’t have yellow!” Like a magic eye, the random scribbles started making sense, and her face came into focus.

I picked her up in my arms and gave the answer I wish I would have thought first. “I love it Ellie. I am so proud of you. I love how you thought about us as you made it. It’s beautiful and so creative!” She beamed.

As we were leaving, the teacher approached us. “Hello, Mrs. Boyce, do you have a second? I’d love to talk to you.” She leads me and Ellie to a quieter place in the hall, where my internal tape begins again: “Well, here it comes. She has concerns about Ellie’s coloring. She’s going to recommend Art Therapy, or coloring pages, or more crayon exposure. Or maybe it’s worse-she said something. Oh my gosh. I am not prepared for this!” I braced for impact and tried to control my facial reactions to whatever words were going to fall out her mouth as I held Ellie in my arms.

She begins, “We have this little girl in class who is shy, deathly shy. Ellie has gone above and beyond to make her feel loved and welcome. She sits and reads to her. We are beginning to see this girl come out of her shell. Ellie has empathy you don’t typically see at her age. So whatever she is learning at home, we also see at school. I just wanted you to know.”

At the end of the day, isn’t that all what we want?

Compassionate kids, not talented artists.

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4 thoughts on “Character Over Coloring: A Lesson On What Really Matters

  1. It looks like art to me, though…
    Art is not about copying the lines of others, or describing how your peers see the world, is it? But rather an imprint of your own soul or voice.
    Right? 💕


  2. Stef, her scribbles show her creativity and the colors her love of you and Beeba.
    I have always told my son. “Dare to be different”. You don’t have to be like everyone else. Love your story.


  3. Steffie, even though you shared this story with us Monday evening, reading it again gave me literal goose bumps and brought tears to me eyes. Why do we always expect the worst? This is a wonderful lesson to all of us to hope for the best instead! Love you!!!


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