The parable of the nine year old and the finger nail

Today Louisa and Luke commissioned me to paint their fingernails red, white and blue for the Fourth of July. Luke wanted four toes painted burgundy with his big toe striped with red, white and blue…which Louisa accurately pointed out looked like the French flag. Louisa, on the other hand (har har har), had much more grandiose visions of what her nails should look like. She determined a particular pattern of colors, selected gold glitter to add as an embellishment and instructed me to paint American flags on her thumbs. I’m reasonably artistic, but an American flag the size of a dime is asking a lot.

Nevertheless, we proceeded. First a base coat of white, followed by a blue square in the upper left corner and then as many red stripes as I could fit onto her tiny thumb. Then Louisa added gold sparkles to her accent nails and it came out looking much better than I had anticipated.

I instructed both kids NOT TO TOUCH ANYTHING! Several times. Repeatedly. With emphasis. And a threatening tone.

They nodded. They voiced their understanding. They promised not to touch anything. They expressed their gratitude for their beautiful manicures.

And then, as nine year-olds sometimes do, Louisa became just a bit careless. She lost track of the task at hand and forgot about her promise not to touch anything. And she TOUCHED SOMETHING. And the beautiful American flag that I worked so hard to create was smudged. No longer the image of the flag that I recognize. It was messy and gross.

At first I was pissed. I mean…I just spent 10 tedious minutes painting a freaking replica of the American flag on the not-so-still hand of a nine year old. I was on the verge of an F bomb, but I reigned it in. To this point in my life, I have managed not to cuss at my kids…audibly…(am I eligible for some sort of award?). Then I decided getting mad wasn’t going to fix anything. When things get effed up, sometimes you just have to completely erase the mess that you are left with and start over. So that’s what we did. We wiped the messed up version completely away and started over fresh. Another layer of white, followed by blue, and then the red stripes. And it was fixed! Is it perfect? Far from it. But it is the best version of what Louisa and I could do together.

And then I told her DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING. Several times. Repeatedly. With more emphasis. And an even more threatening tone.

Happy Fourth of July friends!

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