Anyone raising children understands just how unique each child is. Before you start a family you innocently marvel at all of the wondrous possibilities for your family. “I’ll have three kids! Heck, make it 7.” Because you will totally nail the whole parenting gig. And after the first child you will know basically everything there is to know about raising a child, right? Wrong.
I am raising two children who are completely different from each other. They have been different in so many ways from the very beginning. Sleep patterns, eating habits, milestone progression, clothing preferences, interests, personality. The list of differences goes on and on. When I found out I was having a second boy I thought “Great! I’ll be able to reuse all of the same clothes.” But even that commonality has proven fruitless due to their different personalities and different. Because my children are different. They like different things. They express themselves differently. They are each unique and special in a million different ways.
My oldest son has autism spectrum disorder. His diagnosis came at have 2, just months before my youngest son’s 1st birthday. I was already seeing the stark differences between my two children. But in a way I cannot fully explain; receiving a diagnosis really magnified the differences.
My oldest son seeks routine and patterns and order. He likes it when life fits nice and neatly inside of a box. He does not like when we veer off course. He likes to know what is coming. He likes to be prepared. He remembers even the smallest details about every experience. He makes methodical and well-thought out decisions and commits fully to the coarse he is on. He likes to play with games and toys that provide structure. If we sit down to build he wants to build exactly what we built the last time. It is difficult for him to see familiar things in a new way. He sees the world in only black and white.
My youngest son is sporadic and whimsical. There is no rhyme or reason to anything that he does. He gallivants through life infusing fun and imagination into everything he does. He likes to dress up and play new games every day. His mind is full of imaginary lands and out of this world adventures. He makes quick decisions and changes his mind often. He loves to be surprised and to make imaginative guesses about what the surprise might be. Every day he does things in a new and unique way. He sees the world in so many bright brilliant colors.
If you read through the descriptions above you would likely believe me if I told you that my oldest son colors inside of the line, while my youngest son has zero regard for the lines. Except that is not true. The exact opposite in fact. My oldest son refuses to color inside of the line and my youngest son colors perfectly inside of the lines.
I don’t understand it. It actually makes zero logical sense. Everything about my oldest son screams order and structure. Yet when he pics up his crayons to color the result is chaotic and unstructured and completely outside of the line. While everything about my youngest son screams whimsical and free from boundaries and structure. And somehow when he sits down to color the product perfectly precise and inside of the lines.
I think the way my boys color is a perfect example that no person is just one way all of the time. There are pieces inside of all of us that are structured and whimsical and organized and chaotic. At certain points in life we all color inside and outside of the lines.
I like that they are each able to depart from the normal constructs of their personalities from time to time. It makes me feel secure in the fact that they will be able to adapt and find a home no matter what the circumstances. And it will be our job to teach them how to call on different parts of who they are as they navigate through life.
I am not sure if my sons will ever be more “the same.” They are being raised in the same home with the same morals and the same family structure. And yet they are still very different. I hope that we can hang on to the difference. I like the way that Is provides so much variety and difference into our life. I like the way it helps us to talk to our boys about all of the ways that other people can be different from us.
I think more importantly than whether you color perfectly inside of the lines or color without bounds; color the way you want to. Express yourself the way you want to. Be the way you want to. But do not limit yourself to being just one way. Be messy in some ways and ordered in others. Give in some instances and take in others. Give your life structure and find time for a little chaos.
Color inside and outside the lines as you please. In art. In life. In all things that you do.