art · raising boys · slice of life

Calming Coloring

It started before dawn when Ari woke up every member of our household, systematically, since he couldn’t fall back to sleep.

It continued when Ari refused to tell me what he wanted to eat for breakfast. He insisted on prepping it himself… until Ari realized he couldn’t reach the items he wanted.

Of course he found a scale to weigh some salsa!

It kept going when Ari refused to don his socks and sneakers without help. (He can do this independently.)

And it kept on going when he wanted to weigh every item at the grocery store — even the items that needed to be weighed.

And going… when Ari told Isabelle and I to follow him around the store looking for something to buy trying to convince us he wanted a scone (He doesn’t eat scones.) or a bagel (We have bagels in the house.)!

The drama continued as I unpacked the groceries and Ari refused to wash his hands. By this point, Isabelle knew enough to escape to her art room. As the mom, I couldn’t escape. I had to be present for the battle of the wits. (I won. His hands got washed.)

One hour, I thought to myself. I have one hour until I take that phone call. Two hours until I meet with that teacher via Zoom. How the heck am I going to look and sound professional when I feel so frazzled?!!?

I looked at Ari. I called his name? “What?!” he replied unkindly.

“You are behaving worse than any other morning I can remember,” I said honestly. “What’s bothering you?”

“Nothing!” he said, not meeting my gaze.

“How can I help you?” I asked.

He shrugged.

“Would you like to sit down and color together? I could teach you how to use watercolor pencils.”

I expected Ari to say no, but he said yes. I expected Ari to take out his own coloring book, but he said yes to coloring a page out of mine with me. I expected Ari to stop after ten minutes, but he kept coloring for an hour.

As we colored, the first snow began to fall, but Ari didn’t notice. Instead, he concentrated on staying in the lines as much as possible. He experimented with blending colors. He talked to me in a calm manner, rather than continuing to be a grouch.

“You know what?” I said to him once a half hour passed. “I think coloring together has helped you calm down. Do you feel calmer?”

“I do.”

“Maybe next time, instead of being so growly, you can remember that coloring helps you calm down. Do you think you can remember that?”

“I can,” he said.

Moments later, Ari began asking — rather than directing — me if he could color the entire left side if I colored the right. I agreed. Together, we finished a masterpiece that we signed, dated, and will hang up. It’ll serve as a reminder of this awful morning and how we found our way back to tranquility together – one watercolor pencil at a time.

Head over to Two Writing Teachers for more slice of life stories.

15 thoughts on “Calming Coloring

  1. Wow, glad you found an in. You both did a great job not escalating and creating something beautiful in the meantime. I wonder if coloring will continue to calm him. I often ask my class what works for them so that they can see that there are so many ways we can calm ourselves and that we have to keep on trying if at first, we don’t succeed.

    1. We’ve used the Headspace App’s kid-friendly meditations when the kids need to calm down and can’t do it by themselves. For some reason, though, I didn’t think of that yesterday.

  2. Knowing that the storms are impermanent is a consoling thought. Finding something to bring the calm is much more helpful. I thank you for writing, I thank you for inviting me to write. Slice of Life writing helps me finding calm and color. Wishing you a joyful end of the year!

  3. It sounds like Ari had a terrible, horrible, awful, no-good very bad day….but coloring turned it around (also a calm and patient mom!)

  4. Oh my gosh! I love this slice so much! It’s important to remember internal chaos can provoke beautiful art and then a sense of calm and wellbeing. Well done – mother and son!

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