How Do You Tell Your Children Not to Paint Each Other Green?

Yesterday, my middle daughter who skipped high school to go to art school, and a couple months after she turns 18 will start her master’s degree program in art in Boston, posted a picture of me on Facebook. It was from when we went to pick a Christmas tree last month. To the photograph, she added the caption, “This is the lecture face.” Her older sister responded, “ Or the ‘...Mairead, did you really HAVE to paint your sister's head green?’ face”. Miranda responded, “ I think it's a similar idea :P”

When they were much younger, Mairead did in fact paint Miranda’s head green. It was hilarious and made the Blue Man Group look like amateurs. Fortunately, it was some water soluble poster paint that would come off easily in the bathtub. Unfortunately, there was paint everywhere, some of which may never have gotten completely removed from the floors, ceilings, walls, grout around the bathtub, etc.

It raised an important issue. How do you tell your children not to paint each other green? Somehow, bursting out laughing and acknowledging the great creativity seemed fraught with risks. While it was greatly imaginative, it wasn’t something I wanted to encourage. They were, after all, at that tender age where if you tell them something funny, they would keep repeating it long past it stopped being funny, and I suspect that it wouldn’t take too many times of cleaning up paint everywhere for such art projects to become pretty annoying.

On the other hand, I didn’t want to stifle the budding creativity. So, I took as close to a middle course as possible and put on my ‘lecture face’. I don’t know what I said, I hope I complimented them on the creativity, compared it to Blue Man Group as well as to rites in various aboriginal cultures, and then spoke with them about what a mess it made and told them they had to clean up, and not make any more messes that large.

I don’t recall how they reacted to the lecture, but they did take a bath, or perhaps two, and watched the green water go down the drain.

Did I strike the right note? It’s hard to say. Miranda is heading off to a graduate program in art. However, Mairead may have felt the rebuke more strongly. So, how do you tell your children not to paint each other green?

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