“I’m not good at coloring!” he sighs. A gust of exasperation escapes his lower lip making his copper hair fly straight up off his forehead. For a second, I get lost in his face and forget that he is frustrated and about to cry.
“I’m never going to be a good colorer!” His eyes become shiny with tears.
I look at his paper. It looks pretty much like everything else I’ve seen him color lately, which to me, is artistic perfection.
I look back at him, not sure what really is needed here. I consider my responses:
Tough love: “Snap out of it dude – you’re five. You color just fine.”
Encouragement: “Sean, persistence is the key to life. You just keep trying and someday, in 44 years, you’ll be able to color as well as me!”
Validation: “I love it! I think it’s fantastic!”
Commiseration: “Yup. You stink at coloring.”
Advice: “Have you tried holding your crayon properly?”
I say nothing and wait for more information.
“Everyone else at school colors better than me.”
He puts his forehead down on the counter. Silence hangs between us for a full minute.
I decide to go with a multi-pronged approach.
“Yup! You stink at coloring!” I say.
He pops his head up off the counter and stares at me with big eyes.
“Really?” he asks in disbelief.
“Dude, you’re only five. You’ll get better and better at coloring the more you do it, and some day, if you’re lucky? You’ll be as good as me!”
This makes him roll his eyes. His mother is so lame.
“Besides! I love it!” I enthuse. I do. I love his artistic expressions, the way he draws people with no necks and big crooked smiles.
And then, because I couldn’t stop myself: “Have you tried holding your crayon properly?”