Monday, March 22, 2010

Even Low V.O.C. Paint Affects Your Brain

The Father and I have spent the last 2 weeks repainting nearly the entire interior of our home.  Every morsel of time I've had, where my children were otherwise occupied (read: all the in between moments I usually steal away to peck at the keyboard and attend to TheMiddleBit) have been spent spackling, sanding, taping, wiping baseboards, vacuuming and rolling.  I've been expressing myself with premium paint colors like Soft Chamois, Warm Toffee and Basketry this week but this color story is nothing compared to the ideas I'm brimming with as a result of being away from TheMiddleBit for so many days.

These ideas are likely to spill out all over the place, like the paint can I knocked over in a rush to get to the preschool carpool lane, and it is entirely possible that spending too many hours in a small room inhaling paint fumes for days at a time has caused my brain to produce grand ideas that upon further examination may prove to be less worthy than they seem right now...

However, it is also possible that the hours of uninterrupted solitude I spent painting walls and pondering the rules of the universe have allowed me to stumble upon my most ingenious parenting metaphor to date.  Only time will tell if when the fumes dissipate I'm still feeling enlightened...but here's what's been on my mind.

Parenting is Like Painting

Selecting a color is not the difficult part, but it's the thing that keeps many people from ever getting started.  You head to the paint store with lots of ideas about what you think you want and how it's going to look when you get it home.  How it's going to transform your space.  Make a great, big, hairy, stress-filled deal out of selecting the right hue if you need to, but the simple task is to come out of the whole thing with a gallon of paint.  Like that amazing day when you get into the car with nothing but the over-stuffed suitcase and the empty carseat.  The real work begins once that guy at the store hands over your non-returnable, customized gallon and wishes you good luck.  You get that baby home and start to paint.  Or parent.

The prep work takes three times as long as the actual painting but if you do it right, take your time and plan ahead, the job goes more smoothly.  Certainly I'm not referring to 40 weeks of pregnancy versus a lifetime of parenting here...that's not the prep work of parenting that takes the supreme effort.  I'm talking about the weeks of suffering through nighttime waking that ultimately results in kids who sleep until dawn, the repeated loss of quiet mealtimes where the struggle over green beans eventually results in kids who eat vegetables, the mind numbing rehearsal of the morning routine that produces kids who dress themselves, and countless other examples of prep work. 

You can hire someone else to paint for you, or you can tackle the whole job yourself.  But know this: Your level of satisfaction and ownership of the end result will undoubtedly be affected by this decision.  The pro painter will have a different level of skill than you and certainly a different reason for doing the job right, but there is something to be said for the "learn as you go" mentality that sometimes results in paint on the ceiling and drips on the baseboards.  There are countless professionals that can have a role in the job of parenting.  I'm not saying the end result is better or worse with the help of a professional.  I AM saying they affect how you feel about the end result.

You're going to want to cover everything you don't want to get paint on.  Painting is a messy job.  So is parenting.  If you mask off the white baseboards, and put away your modesty, your impatience and your favorite crystal vase, just temporarily, you won't need to be so stressed about getting paint, or adolescence, all over them.  Drop clothes always seem like 'worst case scenario' items to have, but sometimes they help minimize the damage.

The "load it up with paint and just ride the roller" technique works great for the big flat parts like living room walls, but you need a steady touch for the edges and the corners...those are the tricky parts.  All that parenting prep work definitely affords you some auto-pilot days, but then the game changes out of nowhere and the lives of your children require a more steady hand.

It is possible to put color on a wall with no special tools at all.  Technically, you could do it with your hands, but for the more advanced jobs like painting a vaulted ceiling, or parenting a female teenager, having a few specialized tools like extension poles, or GPS chips in their cell phones, makes the process easier.

Nobody wants to do the clean up, but it has to be done.  Enough said.

Any idiot can paint a wall, some of us idiots are better at it than others and it shows in the final product.  Yep.  Same is true with parenting.

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