You see, today, on this rainy ripe-for-boredom day, I vowed we’d try finger painting. It seemed easy enough—the blogs promised it would be. Ella came in from her outdoor playtime and found me with my hair in a bun, stirring flour, sugar and slowly boiling water in a sauce pot on the stove. “Mommy’s making paint for you,” I say. Of course she wanted to hold the whisk. We got through that part unscathed, unscalded. It was going well, I thought.
Outside, I set up the breakfast-in-bed tray turned toddler-sized table. Out come the empty containers. I filled them with water, one by one. Out comes the child-sized apron, a Christmas gift with the tag still attached. Out come the vials of food coloring: red, blue, yellow and green. One drop of blue, squeezed from the vial, forms expanding swirls and splats in the water. It’s magical—and too much for her to resist. “Ella hold,” she says. “Mommy will hold,” I reply. “Ella hold.” I’m feeling so proud. I’m feeling in control. I’m feeling so darn Pinteresting. I give in. What’s the worst that could happen?
The first lesson we learn is what happens when blue mixes with red—a new color is formed (Dare we call it purple? It looks more like sewage.). The second lesson we learn is that telling a toddler to squeeze gently, one drop at a time, is like telling monsoon winds not to blow so hard. The third lesson we learn is what happens when food coloring mixes with toddler skin.
Soap. Baby oil. Toothpaste. A warm bath and more soap. Scrub, firmly “until patience runs out.” I’m scared to try vinegar and baking soda. Wikihow has no vested interest in the wellbeing of my child.
She’s sleeping now. All tired out. I’m still gently trying to rub out the mistakes of the day. Holding her still tiny but growing fingers, I remember the time I used the wrong pair of nail clippers and made her bleed. I look down where her dress is hiked up and see the small cuts from her most recent fall. I pull too hard on her tangled curls and she stirs in her sleep and faces me, and I’m relieved to see that the wound from when her nose hit the ground is healing well.
It’s always been and always will be a balancing act between keeping her safe and letting her stumble and I’m afraid I haven’t read the book where they teach moms how to weigh and measure the values of experiences that make up a life. As mistakes go, today’s was minor, forgivable. Just food coloring. Soon, it’ll fade. She’s already forgotten But as a mom, I can’t help but wonder how many mistakes I’m allowed before my luck runs out. Or how many mistakes it’ll take to make me too scared to make them.
File this under "meaning to". Also filed under "but didn't".
"I don't want people to say I'm beautiful."
"Mommy, stay. Because you're the best mommy." She needed a partner in crime for the pouring. Today, she found one.
I need to do mess better.
There is freedom in being a complete beginner and in saying I have no idea what I'm doing.
Today, I let her win.
"I don't want to play with you." And there it is. Her unexpressed anger and sadness. In my head, I understand it; in my heart, it's a knife, twisted.
"Is it three weeks yet?" I'd told her that Baby Brother was coming in three weeks, three weeks ago. He was due. He was overdue.