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We'll Keep Our Day Jobs

Both girls this year have asked to paint their rooms, and Brian and I agreed to give that concession to them as a birthday gift.

Sure, we could shell out five hundred bucks per room to hire someone to do all the hard work, but what would be the fun in that? I remember re-decorating my room a few times as I was growing up, and loved the DIY-ness of it every time. We were operating on a negative budget, but my mom never made me feel like we were doing it to save money: painting and moving furniture and sewing our own curtains was part of the fun of it all.

So I was ready to do this with my girls. I’ve painted my fair share of rooms, and am more obsessive-compulsive than the average person, which means I take my time and do it right, removing light switches and taping neat blue lines all around the room.

Seriously, bring it on.

Cora and I spent all day yesterday moving furniture, removing outlet covers, spackling holes, and taping the room. And when I say “Cora and I spent all day” doing those things, I mean that I spent all day doing those things while Cora helped a few minutes, then whined, “Everyone’s telling me what to do. I want to do what I want to do now. I’m bored.”

Good times.

After I picked Maddie up from school we were ready for a coat of primer (I told you, I’m obsessive-compulsive and proud). I’d warned Cora we needed to paint a coat of white before the pink, and she was amenable to the idea. Cora and I put on our painting clothes and she got enthusiastically to work.

Too enthusiastically.

Cora got a bit of paint on her hand and looked at me in alarm. “It’s ok, honey,” I reassured her. “You’re going to get paint on you. We’ll wash it off at the end.” Five minutes later, Cora was practically finger-painting on the wall.

And don’t get me started on the drippies.

Is it too much to ask for a five-year-old to wield a paint brush with some sort of uniformity of stroke? She was happily slapping on the paint helter-skelter and I was trying hard not to clean up the fast-hardening drips all over the wall. I’m cool, I’m cool, I’m cool, this is fun, this is fun, this is fun. These were my mantras.

Maddie watched us at first and declared that she’d changed her mind about painting her room; “It looks like way too much work,” she said, and slunk off. Half an hour later she was back, wanting to join in the fun.

Which she did, for about five minutes.

My oldest child became a bit concerned about the mess accruing on her hands and arms and feet. She would attack a wall with enthusiasm , which quickly waned in five minutes and she wandered off to attack another, untouched wall. “Maddie, we have to all stay together on one wall! We’ll finish faster that way!” Cora shrieked. Maddie shrugged and went back to her dilettante style of painting.

Of course, paint was spilled. Of course, it got ALL over the bottoms of feet. And I’m reasonably certain that, despite my best efforts and numerous layers of drop cloths, there’s paint somewhere on the carpet. Tempers got short, dinner didn’t get made, and clean-up was way more painful than I remembered – just like always. I’m sure there were moments when I actually WOULD have paid someone five hundred dollars, right then and there, to finish the whole thing.

But the room is a bright clean white, and now we’ve got two coats of pink to go and we’re good. Cora loved it and that’s really the best I could hope for; in this instant-access, total gratification society it’s sometimes hard to show the girls that some things take work to make them come true. I know Cora will be infinitely more satisfied when she goes to sleep at night under her cotton-candy pink walls that she worked hard for than she would have been if we’d just paid a guy while we were on vacation and we came home – presto-chango! – to a new room.

Though right now, as I pick primer out of my hair, that doesn’t sound so bad.


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