Writers Without Borders

Entry by: Alobear

4th March 2016
Writers Without Borders


The familiar whine came from the direction of the kitchen table, where my two daughters were supposed to be entertaining themselves quietly while I made dinner.

“Yes, Grace?”

“Eleanor’s colouring outside the lines!”

I sighed inwardly.

“Is she doing it in her own colouring book?”

“Ye-es…” The reply was reluctant. Grace could probably see where I was going with this.

“And is she using her own colouring pencils?” They used to share a set, but Grace objected to the fact that Ellie used the pencils in varying amounts, so they didn’t remain a uniform length.

“Ye-es…” Her tone was getting more petulant.

“Then I think she’s perfectly within her rights to colour however she likes, sweetheart.”

“But she’s doing it wrong!”

There was a sense of real anguish to the words, and my heart went out to the wounded sensibilities of my eldest daughter. But it was important for her to learn that the world would rarely live up to her expectations, and that other people would frequently display very different values to hers.

“Darling, we’ve talked about this. Just because you think colouring should be done in a particular way, it doesn’t mean that everyone else is going to agree with you. You can colour your own picture inside the lines and make it as perfect as you like. Ellie has a different way of doing things and it’s just as good as yours.”

There was an indistinct noise of disapproval, but she didn’t say anything more.

After a few minutes, I sensed a small presence at my side, and looked down to see Ellie brandishing her colouring book in my direction. I inspected the picture she was showing me, and saw a purple and green striped tiger that did indeed show little respect for the borders proscribed by its outlines. I had to give Ellie points for imagination, though. I knew that Grace’s interpretation of the same picture would be meticulous in its neatness and its reflection of realistic colour choice.

“That’s wonderful, poppet,” I said. “What would you like to do now?”

“Story!” she announced with enthusiasm, and I winced inwardly. This was unlikely to end well.

“Okay,” I said. I looked over my shoulder. “Grace, do you want to help Ellie make up a story?”

She looked unconvinced, but also clearly didn’t want to be left out. She thought about it for a long moment, then nodded slowly.

“Ellie, why don’t we let Grace start us off?”

Ellie grinned happily and skipped back to the table, climbing laboriously up onto the chair she had just vacated.

“Once upon a time…!” she cried, then looked expectantly at her sister.

“...there was a bear, who lived in the forest,” Grace continued.

Ellie clapped her hands in glee. “His house was a hot air balloon tied to one of the trees and he flew around the forest, saving fairies from evil dragons!”

I closed my eyes, waiting for the inevitable protest.


“What’s the matter, Grace?”

“Eleanor’s breaking the rules again!”

“It’s a story,” I said, patiently. “There don’t need to be any rules.”

“But a bear wouldn’t be in the same story as fairies and dragons, and bears can’t fly hot air balloons, anyway.”

“Why can’t they?” Ellie wanted to know. She made up stories the same way she approached colouring, with absolutely no respect for the borders.

Grace didn’t reply. She might be happy to complain to me about her sister breaking what she saw as the rules of existence, but she didn’t like arguing with Ellie about it directly. I had a feeling she would grow up to possess a passive-aggressive streak a mile wide. I generally worried a lot more about Grace’s future than I did about Ellie’s. Ellie was blithely confident that whatever she did or decided was perfectly valid, and she would travel her own path without worrying what other people thought about it. She was also very accepting of other people’s views. Grace, on the other hand, was doomed to be continually disappointed by a world that didn’t adhere to her exacting standards, and to suffer endless frustration with people who refused to do things in what she considered to be the correct way. She was quite determined in her own way, though, and would likely be extremely good at whatever she ended up doingwith her life.

Ellie might well grow up to change the world, but Grace could just as easily grow up to rule it.