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I have a confession. When I was about six years old I started writing on walls. Well, one wall. My bed was pushed up to it and it was conveniently placed so that I could lie sideways in bed at night and scribble away to my little heart’s content.

There was always a tiny night light in the bedroom because I was scared of the dark apparently, so I had no trouble seeing the wall well enough to draw on it.

I must have been a difficult child to get to sleep. I can still remember I never wanted to go to bed and always wanted to be part of the action that kept going on without me. Mostly the action was mum and dad chatting in the kitchen.

My going to bed regime always involved reading books. I loved that. It was such a warm, cuddly, secure thing to do with mum (sometimes it was dad but he worked late). But inevitably the time came for lights out and the procrastination began. ‘Can I please have a glass of water? Please read me another story? When’s grandma coming to visit?’ Anything I could think of to keep mum in the bedroom and the lights on.

But they were on to me and so the lights went out. But I still fought sleep and tried to do things to amuse myself. It was only a matter of time before I got the good idea of writing on the wall while I was lying in bed.

So, one night, out came the crayons and pencils and a writer cum artist was born! Not that everyone was impressed. Mum’s reaction the next morning was classic.

What did you draw on the wall for? What have you done to your nice white wall?’ Etc, etc. And, ‘Don’t do that again.

I wasn’t normally a disobedient child so the next night I lay in bed just gazing at the picture I had drawn. It was mum, dad, my baby brother and me. Not too bad really for a sideways lying in bed in the dark kid. But the longer I looked at it, the more I wanted to add to it. It needed a house and a garden and a fence. Maybe some flowers too. So the desire overcame good sense and I crept out of bed, retrieved the crayons from the drawer and added to the picture. Satisfied, I went to sleep.

Well, next morning you could say I was the center of a lot of negative attention.

At the dinner table the next evening my dad said, ‘Your mother and I have been having a little chat.’

Oh, oh. That sounded ominous.

‘We’ve decided you can draw on the wall. But just the wall near your bed.’

My ears early fell off! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

‘But you have to stay in the lines,’ said mum.

‘What lines?’ I said. ‘There aren’t any lines on the wall.’

‘There are now,’ said dad.

So we all trooped into the bedroom so I could see ‘the lines’.

And there they were. Mum and dad had drawn lines around my art, just like a frame around a picture. And the best part was there was still plenty of room for more.

That night I labelled my picture and drew kisses and hugs. Each night after that, I added more pictures and words and speech bubbles. I loved speech bubbles.

What an environment for developing creative thought. Dim light, quietness, time for reflection and time to dream.
And after that I never went out the lines and I never drew on any other walls. What a happy compromise. Of course, as time went by I stopped writing on the wall but I still remember it and can still see that bedroom. What an important memory.

Looking back, I think my parents’ attitude towards my overwhelming urge to draw and write was one of the reasons I grew to love writing. I loved drawing too but it didn’t come as naturally to me as writing did. And there are probably reasons for that too.

So what I’m trying to say here is, is it so bad for children to write on walls? Oh dear, that’s contentious isn’t it?

I’m not advocating for rampant graffiti everywhere in the house, but a personal, creative space that ‘belongs’ to the child. Over time you may start to notice a development in your child’s writing skills. What a wonderful catalyst for conversation and sharing too.

And you know, the best part is, if you really shudder deeply at the thought of less than perfect walls, there’s a way out. Put up a whiteboard or a BIG piece of paper or cardboard and let your child go for it. But if you’re really game, do what my parents did all those years ago and give your child a bit of wall. After all, it’s just a bit of wall.

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