My son has been “helping” me to paint his room.
When we stopped last night, he had paint on every limb, a smudge on his chin, two coated palms and a 4 x 4″ swath of blue hair.
Trying to get an eight-year-old to choose and stick with a color palette is harder than it sounds.
We’ve been through every combo imaginable in the past few months. If it were up to me, everything in the house would be some shade of blue. It’s just a very soothing color. (Unless you’re like my friend and it makes you physically sick, but that’s another story.)
I sorta felt like I couldn’t impose blueness on my child anymore, so I encouraged him to choose.
When one of our favorite teenagers painted her room red this summer, my son wanted to do that too. I was nervous about the deep dark color, but willing to go with it. He took one look and couldn’t stop talking about it. I thought red was the one.
Last month, I was certain we would paint the top of his walls white and the bottom of the walls black. It wasn’t my favorite idea, but it would have been sophisticated and easy to match with new linens.
The month before that, we were thinking pink. Or purple. Or rust. And occasionally gray.
It seemed the longer the delay in actually getting to the project, the more outrageous the color palette seemed to get. In retrospect, I think my son just never believed we were going to do it. The color talk was just another nutty mommy game.
“What if we paint your room brown and green?” I asked him.
“Paint brown and green today.” He agreed with everything I suggested and always added a sense of urgency. Poor child. So much talk and planning and never any doing.
Until this week, of course.
This week, the boy is home for the Fall break from school, so there is no mad rush to get dressed and out the door in the morning. We can stay in our pajamas and get this done.
The weekend ahead is a busy one – Grammy is here and Husband is in a wedding – but today and tomorrow, there are no lunch dates, no dog walking, no outside commitments. There is nothing but me, the boy and a promise. And lot of paint. A lot of the same blue and green paint.
We’re painting blue on the top and on the ceiling and in the closet and green on the bottom of the walls. The same, but different.
This time there will be no hand-painted bees or clouds. There will be no little car stickers and no Humpty Dumpty sitting on top of the mirror. The Winnie The Pooh decals I so carefully rubbed on have been rubbed off. Winnie is gone. The little boyness of this room has faded.
We painted the first coat of blue last night and we made a million mistakes, but it looks good. It looks better than before. It looks cleaner, brighter and booger free. Not sure how long that part will last – boys will be boys.
The thing is, the child just wanted to paint. He wanted to pick up a roller and dip it in the tray and put it on the walls. He wanted to play with the blue masking tape and use the interesting paint can key. He wanted to walk barefoot on a sheet of plastic and see his room with nothing in it. That was all. He just wanted the process – the hours of doing something different – with mommy.
So when he said “paint a wall blue and green,” it suddenly seemed very logical to keep the same lovely colors that have soothed him to sleep for the past few years. He likes them.
Painting with this little boy is a definite challenge and I confess I raised my voice a time or two yesterday.
He puts too much paint on the roller and he jumps as he applies it to the wall. He gouges the sections I’ve already finished and he doesn’t finish the sections I’ve assigned him.
He runs circles around me as I’m pouring more paint and he splatters the trim and the windows and door on a regular basis. Much of my job has been undoing what he has done.
This project is long overdue, ill-timed and stressful, but he needs it and so do I.
He’s learning to paint and I am practicing my patience. He is doing something new and I am coaching him through it. I am making familiar mistakes and he is teaching me to let them go. When I started, this was drudgery. With him, it’s just a joy.
It’s a process.
The colors aren’t important.