Someone gave me a very wise stress relief suggestion this week: get a big box of crayons and a coloring book and go to town. It was the absolute perfect idea for me — not only do I like coloring for letting me follow artistic impulses despite not even being able to draw a stick figure, but I also had a stretch of time in high school when my friends and I rediscovered crayons and coloring, so it satisfies a nostalgic itch too.
I had to dig in my craft drawer to find my sad little box of 24 crayons, but I fully intend to buy a 96-crayon box this weekend to get the full glory of burnt sienna and cadet blue. It’s funny — as an adult, I love lots of different crafts, but I forgot all about coloring because it’s so much more about the process than the finished picture (as opposed to, say, knitting something that becomes a garment or making stationery that later gets used for correspondence). Yes, I might have a psychedelic picture of Wallace & Gromit at the end of an hour, but what I really love is the action of coloring: picking up a crayon, reading the label, letting my hand wander over the page, building up layers and layers of color. I find it immensely satisfying in part because it’s purposeless, and as a grownup (and a grad student, for that matter) I spent so much energy being goal-oriented that it’s a great relief to do something just because I like to do it. Yesterday I spent an hour coloring and listening to music, and it was the most purely relaxing thing I’ve done in weeks.
The person who initially suggested picking up crayons to me wisely noted that there’s a lot of stuff that we think is “kids-only” that we don’t give ourselves permission to do unless we are actually around kids. Think of the trope of the dad buying a cool train set for his kids and then playing with it himself. When I was in high school, on sleepovers my friend and I would sometimes catch her dad sneaking in some Super Nintendo (which they bought “for the kids”) when he thought everyone else was asleep. There’s a lot of ideas about efficiency and purpose and productivity built into our cultural assumptions about adulthood, but that doesn’t mean we lose the impulses to goof off creatively — we just pretend we do because we’re afraid that if anyone catches us with a crayon or a model airplane, they’ll think we’re not really grownups after all.
So my fluff question for you is this: what did you do as a kid that you would secretly (or not so secretly) love to do again? If you’re a parent, what aspect of kids’ play do you most enjoy being part of? And of course, what’s your favorite Crayola color?