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Well, I Never Told Her Not To . . .

Maddie is currently fascinated with toe
nail polish. She sees it on her friends, and began pestering me to
paint her own toes several months ago. About eight weeks ago I gave
in, and let her paint her toes as a reward for an astonishingly
great several days. She preened and walked around barefoot whenever
possible, admiring her pedicure and proclaiming it to friends and

Last week I allowed Maddie to paint her toes again, as another
reward for a week well done. She begged me to do my own toes in the
same color as her own, and I promised I would before seeing that
she’d picked out a particularly zombie-like shade of purple.
But a promise was a promise, and I spent several minutes at the
beginning of each acting class last week fielding questions from my
kids about why my toenails were painted like the undead.

Cora, of course, couldn’t figure out why she wasn’t
getting her toes painted, and begged for it on nearly an hourly
basis. “No, Cora, you’re too young,” Maddie would
tell her with only a trace of smugness. Cora accepted the answer,
but didn’t seem thrilled about it.

So Maddie decided to do something to make her feel better.

I came home one afternoon from teaching to
be greeted at the door by Maddie. “Hey, Mom, come look at
what I did to Cora!” I ran to my baby, to see her sitting
happily, dangling her toes off the edge of the couch.

Make that, dangling her BLACK toes off the edge of the couch.

“See, Mom, Cora is too young for toenail polish, so I colored
her nails in with crayon! Wasn’t that a good idea?”
Maddie told me, nearly jumping up and down with her excitement. I
could see the pride in her eyes at solving a difficult problem to
what she was sure would be everyone’s satisfaction.

And the truth is that I never forbade her from coloring her
sister’s toenails with crayons. Just polish.

“Hey, honey,” I said carefully, “That looks like
you worked really hard on it, and like you did something that made
your little sister really happy. You, um, stayed in the lines
really well. So good for you for that.

“But,” I continued, “from now on, you should not
color on any part of your sister’s body with crayons,
markers, colored pencils, pens, ballpoint pens, white-out, or
highlighters, ok? Basically, anything you use to mark up a paper
should not go on another person. You’re not in trouble for
this, but you will be if you do it again, because now you know
better, ok?”

“Ok,” she said agreeably, and scampered off, clearly
unphased by the list.

As for me, I keep reviewing the list compulsively, looking for some
loophole, some item I’ve left out.

Because I’m sure Maddie will find it.


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