My daughter, she of the great jokes, has recently developed an interest in tattoos and will appear at various times with full sleeves (in felt tip), or intricate patterns on her legs. Usually this will occur just as we are about to head out the door to some engagement or other, after we’ve frantically got everything ready. After much rolling of eyes my wife and I decide that we haven’t got the time (and/or inclination) to do anything about it now, and at least the pen she’s chosen matches the dress she’s wearing.
I’m not altogether sure where this fascination has stemmed from, although we do have friends with some prominently displayed ink. Whilst I want to support my kid’s dreams and ambitions, but I’m not sure that taking her down to the local tattoo emporium at five years old is the right way to go.
Her generous spirit has now come into the equation though and on a recent trip to the supermarket, she asked me if she could give me a tattoo. She was already brandishing a biro, and happily explained that she’d already given one to Mummy. Sure enough Mrs L. showed me the back of her left hand. “It’s a cupcake with a cherry on the top,” our princess told me. I imagine that Picasso would have been immensely proud of it, as was my little girl, and my wife described it as being “stylish”, but to be honest it only bore a passing resemblance to any sort of cake. Nevertheless I made impressed noises and agreed that it was brilliant. You see, one of my views on parenting is that it doesn’t matter how much of a twit you look to anyone else, as long as you are your child’s hero, you’re doing it right. With this in mind I agreed to having a tiger on my right hand, and I have to say it was really rather good, if you can overlook the fact that the tiger didn’t have any ears, only three legs, and partway through, her pen started to run out of ink, causing her to push it down into my skin with more strength than I knew she possessed. Despite those shortcomings, which she noticed, and enthusiastically corrected, she was really pleased with her efforts, so much so that she offered to give me another on the other hand.
This time I decided that I wanted a car and she was only too pleased to oblige. Once again, the pen seemed to run out several times and at one point I was convinced she was going to draw blood. Bear in mind that we were still at the shops, so I certainly would have interrupted her train of thought as I reached for a particular item, but imagine my surprise when she’d finished she asked me; “Daddy, do you mind if it’s a tractor instead?” Later that evening, my better half and I had tremendous fun thinking, what if these were real tattoos? Oh how we laughed, but then I suppose that is why 5 year olds don’t work in tattoo parlours.
This brings me onto last weekend. One of our friend’s kids was having their 3rd Birthday party and it was my turn to take the oldest two. I dread these things, I hate making small talk with people I barely know, but I usually end up playing with the children and having more fun than them. I’m often upset that the music never stops for me during pass the parcel, and that when it’s time to go home the hosts don’t give me a party bag!
On this occasion, there were to be no party games as the event was being held at a local playground. I spent most of my time chasing after my 2 year old, who seemed to be making it his mission to locate all of the spots most likely to be inhabited by paedophiles! After a little while, he didn’t seem to want to wander off, (perhaps because he was securely harnessed into the swing and was unable to escape). One of the other parents offered to push him, and so I went off to make small talk with people I barely know, but fate had different plans for me. What happened next is, to my mind at least, an unanswerable mystery, akin to the meaning of life, the existence of Bigfoot and the Kardashian’s fame. One moment I was busy admiring the cake and complimenting the birthday girl’s Mum and the next, I had a paintbrush in one hand, an assortment of jars in the other and an eager five year old looking me in the eye saying; “I want a dinosaur!” He could clearly see the confusion in my eyes so he repeated; “I want a dinosaur… on my cheek!”
I looked down at the jars in my hand and noticed that they were full of different coloured pastes. It was then that I realised I was on face painting duty.
To be quite honest, I wasn’t in the slightest bit fazed. I’m a bit of a dab hand (if you’ll excuse the pun) with a paint brush, or at least I was when I last held one about 20 years ago, and a teenage ambition to be a palaeontologist (weird kid, I know)has left me with a sizeable knowledge of dinosaurs. “So what kind of dinosaur would you like?” I asked “Allosaurus, Stegosaurus, Diplodocus, Brachyosaurus, Triceratops, Dimetrodon, Ankylosaurus, T. Rex, Velociraptor…” This went on for a little while, and I could see that I was getting, what I took to be, admiring looks from some of the other parents. I nodded sagely as I looked back at the five year old who seemed to have slipped into; well not so much a coma, as a kind of stupefied trance. I nudged him and asked again:” So what kind of dinosaur do you want?”
“A green one!” came the reply.
I wearily rolled my eyes. “Ok I’ll do a T. Rex then.”
I thought that it went really well. I captured the snarl of the vicious lizard, the scaly skin and its predatory stare, and sent the youngster off to play, and hopefully drum up some more canvases for me.
Imagine my disappointment when one of the other parents sidled up to me and quietly said; “You do know that chickens aren’t green.”