It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Caught red-handed. Nearly.

The older children gather, three small heads bowed in fascination over my hands. Surprisingly, there is no food involved, to so draw their attention. No bread being kneaded, nor batter mixed, nor even apples being sliced. (RED apples, of course!)

No, today Mary is putting on nail polish!

In fact, it’s something I rather enjoy doing, but rarely do when the children are about. It is, after all, a bit of a handicap. Rather hard to step in and prevent death or dismemberment, or even garden-variety mayhem, if you’re fluttering about trying not to smudge your polish.

Oh, I know. If I REALLY had to put perfection of polish in jeopardy to keep my sweet charges safe, I would. But as anyone who wears the stuff knows, the precision required to get the nails, just the nails, no cuticle-splooshing or smudges anywhere… well, it’s just not something you get without great effort, and, once achieved, it is NOT something you put at risk lightly.

So, let me tell you, whatever you’re doing to to make me risk smudging my polish? It had BETTER be life or death…

But today I have little choice. In celebration of Anniversary Number Three, the husband and I are going to have our pictures taken this afternoon. Real, professional pictures! Pictures where you pay $95 just to walk into the studio, so you can be damned sure I am going to look FINE. Or as fine as I can manage.

I have not one, but two dresses picked out, all ready to go in garment bags. (He’s wearing a suit. Men have it so lucky.) The hair is done. The rest of me is buffed and plucked and smoothed and whatever. Make-up will wait till after the tots are collected. But, because I have several things lined up for this afternoon, and because my time-line will be tight, the only time to do my nails and leave adequate time for drying — ESSENTIAL, if you don’t want nail polish smeared on expensive dresses — is … NOW.

So, now it is.

And the kids? They are enthralled. Because it’s not boring clear (like normal), or pale pink or white… this is SCARLET. (Like one of the dresses I have chosen. The other is turquoise. Dress, not polish. The scarlet polish will work with both dresses. Because I say so.)

“OH! That is BEAUTIFUL!!!” Noah is in full approval.
“That is RED!!!” Tyler is factual.
“That is beeeeeeeautifullllll!” Emily is in heaven.

“Would you like to wear some?”

“Yes, but I want DAT colour.” Noah reaches into the basket and taps the bottle of blue polish. I bought the stuff on a whim and wore it only once because I find it distracting in an entirely unappealing way. I keep it because it might come in handy for a craft some day. You never know. But of course Noah would choose it. Blue is Noah’s favourite colour.

Tyler backs away, shaking his head and putting his hands firmly behind his back, lest I be taken by some uncontrollable urge to FORCE nail polish onto his reluctant fingertips.

“Oh, could I have the red, please?” Emily’s voice is filled with a girly yearning she doesn’t often evidence. Unlike Anna, Emily is not the ultimate girly-girl. But she does like the pretty once in a while, and the nail polish, the scarlet polish, seems to have captured her imagination.

“Sure you can, sweetie,” I say, reaching for her hand with my right hand and dipping the brush into the bottle with my left. “It’s a pretty colour, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is!” She nods her head in vigorous approval as her first finger is garnished in scarlet. “I really like it, and mummy says that little girls only get to wear pink or clear polish.”

The wand freezes.

“Mummy says that?”

“Yes.” Her face tenses and she realizes her faux pas. “Mummy says that, but…” She searches in her head for the resolution to his dilemma as I reach for the polish remover. “She does… but…” Her eyes widen anxiously… “But at YOUR house, YOU’RE the boss!”

Oooo. Smart cookie. This is my answer to those occasions when a child is hoping for something from me that’s only allowed at home, some concession that a parent with one child might be able to allow but an adult with five probably can’t. “I know you can walk around with your snack at home, sweetie, and that’s fine. At home, mummy and daddy are the boss, and they make the rules. But here, I am the boss, and my rule is we sit at the table to eat.”

And I am the boss, but that’s over things where the jurisdiction is clear, and limited to my home/time. But to knowingly flout a parent’s rule, then enable the child to do the same, and, moreover, send the child home with the evidence painted on her fingers? Emily, Emily, Emily… What do you take me for?

She went home wearing pearl white. And mummy greatly enjoyed the story of Attempted Scarlet.

May 14, 2010 Posted by | Emily, Mischief, parents | , , , , , | 3 Comments