Portrait of the artist as a young pain in my ass

Posted by jdg | Wednesday, October 18, 2006 |

Juniper is a dainty child. She doesn't like getting shit on her hands. When she lands on her butt at the bottom of a slide, she will sit there for several minutes picking the woodchip particles off her palms. She won't even go near sand. Last weekend I bought her some fingerpaint, thinking we could paint a picture for her mother to put on the wall in her office.

Yesterday morning, after I set down plenty of newspaper and stripped her down to her diaper, I removed the cover of the paint and showed Juniper how to do it. "Nooooooo," she wailed, and ran across the room, burying herself in couch pillows. I dragged her over again, screaming, so I basically had to strongarm my daughter into doing some actual fingerpainting. But the second she got a dab of the red paint on the tip of her index finger she frowned and told me it was "dirty" and demanded a "wipey."

Now I feel I have an obligation to share with you the rest of what happened yesterday, if only because around here I tend to paint my parental experiences with rose-colored hues and the occasional opacity. Our days are not always the idyllic times I portray them to be, with the two of us walking along sewage-clogged canals outside of auto factories and playing in lead-paint covered 1960s playgrounds overgrown with weeds and ancient crack pipes. Sometimes, in truth, Juniper is a handful.

Yesterday I put Juniper down for her nap at 1:30, and proceeded to check my e-mail, when a few minutes later I heard her yelling at me from the next room. Let me back up: for the last two weeks Juniper has chosen to take her daily shit right when I put her down for her nap, so inevitably I have to interrupt naptime to change a disgusting diaper, its smell lingering in the room while I try to put her to bed all over again. And lately Juniper has been showing me that she knows how to take off her own diaper. You can tell, by now, where this is leading.

For a girl who doesn't like to get shit on her hands, she sure does know how to fingerpaint with it. The wall above her bed looked like Jackson Pollock had painted it with digested macaroni and ginger carrot soup. And there's my little germaphobe, smiling up at me in what had been a white t-shirt that is now a dinghy brown smock: "poo poo!" she said.

Poo poo, indeed.