I Should Have Been Assigned To The Ring Toss….

Yesterday was field day at my son’s pre-school and I volunteered to help out.  When I arrived and asked where I could make myself useful, his teacher looked at me with pleading eyes and asked if I would take the face painting assignment.

“Um, sure” I said, hoping my hesitation would imply that I really did not want to be in charge of face painting.  It didn’t.

She handed me a few boxes of face paint and another few boxes of hypoallergenic face paint that had been provided by the parents of children with allergies.  She also handed me a list of the children who had parental permission for face painting; those with allergies were highlighted for my reference.

I sat down on a tiny chair that essentially made me feel as though I was holding a supported malasana (squat) pose and began to prepare my station.  Upon opening the first box of face paint, I was relieved to find that there were stencils included.  Ok, cool, I thought.  I could do these, no problem!  Hell, I could even free hand one of these rainbows or smiley face designs.  I’ve got this!

I like to believe I possess some artistic ability.  I like to decorate, refinish and paint old furniture and I love a good DIY project, but I’m not an artist in the sense that I can draw or paint….anything.  In fact, I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler.  I wish I could and I’ve tried, but I’m too much of a perfectionist.  This is why the thought of having to paint the cherubic faces of a bunch of excited and wiggly pre-schoolers gave me such pause.  But with a guide?  Well, I could definitely manage with a guide.

With renewed confidence, I welcomed my first customer of the day.  So, what are we doing today?” I asked a little boy with a drippy nose and the remnants of a snack in the corner of his mouth, as I gestured toward the stencils I’d lined up for choosing.

Boy:  I want to be a jaglion

Me:  A what?

Boy:  A jaglion!

Me:  Um, what’s a jaglion?  Is that like a liger?  (Napoleon Dynamite reference he totally didn’t get.)


Boy:  No.  It’s a jaglion.  You know, a jaglion.  It’s part jaguar, part lion.

Me:  (blank stare)

Boy:  It lives in Africa, it’s magical, it runs 2,000 mph.  A jaglion!

Me:  (picking up a stencil)  How about a bat?

He wasn’t accepting some shitty generic bat when he wanted a jaglion.

Boy:  Ask Siri, she’ll show you a picture.

Me:  Um, why don’t you just tell me what it looks like.

I did my best.  After painting his entire face orange, then outlining it in black and adding red stripes and some whiskers, I sent him on his way, but not before using a small mirror to show him what the outcome looked like.  He told me he looked exactly like a jaglion.

For the next three hours, I proceeded to paint a number of butterflies, princesses, Batmen and Spidermen, blue cats and pink dogs, a snake with fangs and scales, a fox, a tin man, a Pokemon character and a glittery koala.  Exactly none of them were a stencil, no matter how hard I tried to sell them on the idea.  Not even my own kid, Snugs, gave me a break when he sat down and requested to be a cardinal.

Me:  Snugs, look at all these choices.  What do you think?

Snugs:  I fink I want to be a cardinal.

Me:  The bird?

Snugs:  Yes

Me:  Are you sure you don’t want to be one of these?  Like the bat, I could paint it red and we could pretend it’s a cardinal.

Snugs:  No, I want to be a cardinal.


My artwork throughout the day was not impressive.  But after every sitting, I would show the kids their reflection, bracing myself for disappointment and maybe even tears, but every time, they would say something like, “Yes, I look exactly like a blue fox with a top hat.”

One little girl, who asked to be a pink and purple zebra, looked at her reflection and said, “Wow, it looks so pretty.  You’re a real artist.”

I had to stop myself from correcting her.  In her eyes, it was art and she thought it was wonderful.  Why should I ruin that?  Then, it struck me how beautiful the world must look to little one’s and how sad it is that we lose that gift so soon.

Then, I told them all my name was Karen.  Because I’m betting when their parents picked them up from school and especially when they had to try and scrub away the layers of paint that morphed their children into some sad version of modern art, they din’t think it was so beautiful.  It’s a safe bet.  I was cursing Karen too.

PS:  I Googled “Jaglion” when I got home.  It’s a real thing.  A jaglion or jaguon is the offspring between a male jaguar and a female lion.

That is pretty magical.

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