Save the colouring book

I thought I’d spent a good deal of quality time with the kids at the weekend building dens and watching the Muppets, but come Sunday, well, the garden wasn’t going to tidy itself, was it?

Inevitably, everything has been growing faster than I can chop it all back and to further hinder my scant efforts, the wind blew down a grapevine the other week just to add to the mess. In the wake of the recent floods, I’m not complaining, but our fence also having blown down a few months back means people can see our jungle from the roadside and it’s getting embarrassing.

Anyway, I had hoped the kids might want to come outside and play or even help me, but no – they were more than happy to stay in front of the television/computer and fight.

Nothing was appeasing them today, not even the Muppets, and I ended up channelling my frustration into sorting out some of their junk in the spare room. Out went yet more broken toys, countless Happy Meal freebies that had never been opened, a tangled skipping rope and a half coloured pound shop colouring book. A job well done, I went outside and left them to it.

It didn’t take too long to chop my way through the vine once I’d got past the initial despair at the sight of it all and soon I was bagging up the cuttings ready for disposal.

Another job well done, I swept back into the house to wash my hands, so pleased with myself that I didn’t even notice what the kids were up to. The television was still on in the background, but it was only upstairs that I noticed the scene of devastation.

The bin bag that I had carefully packed with old toys ready to throw out had been torn open, presumably by my five-year-old boy, and its contents strewn all across the landing.

Momentarily, the despair returned as I felt that feeling that many parents feel when they have spent ages tidying up one area of the house only to discover that meanwhile their kids have been systematically making a flaming mess of another.

I stomped downstairs, ready to blow my top perhaps a little irrationally, when I realised that the kids had actually been sitting in front of the television all along, quiet as mice.

So what had they discovered in that bin bag that had brought on this rare moment of peace in my day? The skipping rope. Uh-uh. The Fantastic Mr Fox figurines in mint condition. Nope.

My kids were there, totally absorbed in the half coloured pound shop colouring book. Now at five and seven, you don’t immediately think this would have been the first thing they’d have salvaged. What’s more they were sharing it. Yes, SHARING. The boy had got his box of crayons down and they were sharing those too.

‘Can you pass me the blue so I can do the sky?’ my daughter asked her brother.

‘Here you go,’ said the boy as he scribbled a big duck in yellow.

‘You can have this blue afterwards so you can colour in the pond,’ said my daughter.

Hello? Am I dreaming this, I thought. So amazed by the tranquil scene in front of me, I got out the mobile and filmed it. Sure they have moments of getting on, but never quite like or for as long as this. They may not speak the same language as one another or sing the same song but, by jove, they can certainly colour the same picture.

It was a lesson learned. Never underestimate the power of the crayon. If Blue Mink hadn’t already come out with Melting Pot, I’d say there was a song in this. Forget Make Love Not War, how about Draw Pictures Not Arms. Could this be the answer to Israel’s troubles? A Spirograph set and a few felt tip pens?

This is, of course, going a bit too far, but at least I have established a golden rule for any parent tempted to have a bit of a clearout in haste: whatever you do, no matter how unloved it looks, no matter how flimsy its pound shop pages may be, never throw away the colouring book.

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