I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. After a particularly long morning, the Twins’ 3rd Birthday Party was finally in full swing. Food was served, Piglet and Pluto cupcake towers were constructed, and while kids of all ages darted across the house hopped up on sugar, our adult friends and family tossed back a mimosa or two, occasionally craning their necks to check on their offspring.
Yep, it looked like we just might pull this thing off after all.
It figures that on a day meant to be all about them, my son and daughter decided to make the entire morning all about them with constant, unnecessarily melodramatic whining, thus hindering the actual preparation for their party. The plan had been for me to head to the grocery store for a few last-minute food items while my wife stayed home to get things ready, with help from her sister who had graciously volunteered her mad cupcaking skillz. My wife–an überplanner–had dutifully procured party game supplies to be assembled, festive popcorn boxes to be filled with Orville Redenbacher-y goodness, and goodie bags to be distributed to the under-ten crowd. However, as I witnessed the Twins’ heart-wrenching, Oscar-worthy disapproval of changing from their pajamas to their party clothes just before I left, I had a feeling my wife’s überplans had become an endangered species. Sure enough, the moment I re-entered the house with groceries in tow (30 minutes from Go Time), I was met with a frantic Honey-Do-all-of-this-before-I-Hulk-Smash-somebody’s-face List. Despite my deft popcorn-box filling and spirited backyard dog-poo extraction, our guests began to arrive way before we were able to accomplish Operation: Meet The Wife’s Unrealistic Pinterest-Fueled Expectations.
The major casualty was the party games, but one particular activity did make the final cut: face painting.
I don’t think I’ve ever shared this, but my youngest sister Jenn is an incredibly talented artist–drawing, painting, mosaic-ing…she does it all. I did not receive that gene.
Anyway, among the small bunker full of party gear my wife had stockpiled was a set of face paints, with which Jenn had happily agreed to create toddler-face graffiti. She kicked off her session with a set of fairy wings on my daughter’s cheek (while my spazz of a son adamantly refused to partake–“I don’t WANT colors on my face!”), and wound up being the party’s main attraction. Later, having tagged a majority of our young guests with a genius assortment of butterflies, footballs, and Van Gogh’s Starry Night, she had just closed up shop to rejoin adult conversation.
It was about then that she caught my attention from across the room, just as I was taking the above-mentioned sigh of relief. “Hey John,” she called, “C’mere a minute.”
I joined her by the kitchen sink. She looked strangely concerned. “What’s up?” I asked.
“Well,” she began, “I was just washing my hands here after doing the face painting, and, well, look.”
I looked down and saw several blue-green blotches on her hands–assumedly the aftermath of the tiny-person warpaint. “Huh. You didn’t do a really do a good job washing, did you?”
“No, John, that’s what I mean. I can’t get it off.”
It took a moment for it to click. I then surveyed the room, which was flooded with kids sporting Spider-Man and Minnie Mouse cheek art–my daughter among them–and realized the gravity of the situation.
I froze. This couldn’t be happening.
She continued, “So then I looked in the face paint box, and found this.” She handed me a paper insert from the package and pointed at some fine print, which read: “Warning: Face paint may stain skin.”
“What?!” I bellowed. Then, regaining my composure as a few guests’ heads turned, I continued quietly, “Why would they sell face paint if it stains your skin? Why would it–”
“I don’t know, but I’m not really sure what to do here. Should we tell everybody?”
I took another look around the room, this time at all the parents. Dammit.
Just then, I felt a tap on my arm. I looked down and saw a hopeful little girl who had just arrived at the party (you may remember her as the Pink Pirate). “John,” she asked in the cutest little voice, “Can I have my face painted, too?”
How do you say no to that–even when you know you should?
“Um, maybe? Hold on a minute. I’ll be right back.”
I had to make an important decision. And my decision was to ask my wife what to do. (Yep, I know my place. Ask any sane married man what he’d do in this situation and he’ll ask his wife if it’s a good idea to say he’d ask her. Happy wife, happy life.)
I made a beeline for My Better Half, fine print in hand. “Okay, so Jenn just noticed that some of the paint won’t come off her hands. And then we found this.” I pointed at the warning. “So… um… should we tell everybody?”
Without missing a beat, my wife raised her voice for the entire house to hear. “Okay, so, parents, listen up. Apparently there’s a chance that the face paint will stain your kids’ skin, so if your kids want their faces painted, that’s just a warning.”
However, there was an elephant in the room with an elephant painted on its face that still had not been addressed.
And so I thought it best to chime in. “…And for those parents whose kids have ALREADY partaken in the face paint, we have complimentary alcohol to console you during this difficult time.”
I got a few nervous giggles, followed by a few moments of awkward silence, and then, to our pleasant surprise, nobody seemed to give a sh!t.
Well, almost nobody…
Because it was then that the persistent little girl who’d just arrived asked her mother, “Mommy, can I have my face painted, too?”
Her reply: “No, sweetie. Let’s skip it this time.”
. . .
Later, after cupcakes were devoured, wrapping paper thrown away, gift bags and tissue paper re-folded so my wife can save them to re-use, our guests gone, and the Twins asleep on the living room floor after exhausting themselves with their new toys, my wife suddenly yelled, “Dammit!” while we were straightening up.
“What’s up?” I asked.
You should have seen the sheer horror on her face. “We forgot to give out goodie bags!”
Sure enough, sitting on the counter in a festive heap were the perfectly-assembled Piglet/Pluto-themed goodie bags she’d crafted for each of the kids’ friends to take home. We hadn’t given away a single one.
“Oops,” I laughed, well aware of my wife’s frustration but not able to help myself.
“Dammit!” she said again, looking back at the counter.
“What? What now?”
“We didn’t even hand out birthday hats…” She thrusted color-coordinated cone-shaped hats at me. “…or put up streamers…” She raised the still-wound rolls. “…or play Pin the Tail on Pluto and Piglet.” (Yes, this was a real game she’d planned.)
“You realize Piglet doesn’t have a tail, right?”
“Yeah, he does. He’s a pig. He has a cute little curly tail under that red striped thing he wears.”
“I can’t believe we forgot all of this. What are we going to do with it all?”
“Well, the way I see it, we have everything all set for their 4th birthday party. Hats, goodie bags, streamers… We’re good to go. That way, all we need to focus on next year is getting them changed out of their freaking pajamas, which, as you remember, was quite the project this morning.”
“But next year will be a different theme… Different colors…” She frowned–a defeated frown in which I saw an entire Pinterest board of expectations fall to pieces.
I pulled her in for a bear hug. “Look, the kids had fun, we had fun, and it looked to me like everybody else had fun. It was a great party. Don’t worry about it. And look on the bright side. At least you didn’t get your face painted.”
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