Around this time last year I took a very excited Kitty and a barely toddling Elma to their friend’s third birthday party. There were balloons, party food, a bouncy castle and children running happily in all directions. And in one corner was a face painting station. Kitty was fascinated. She loved the brushes, the sponges, the colours all laid out and the sparkly twirls and whirls being painted across her friends’ cheeks.
But when it came to her turn she was absolutely adamant; there was no way she was going to have her face painted thank you very much. In the end the longing for a bit of glitter won out and she settled for a butterfly painted on her wrist, albeit with sideways longing glances at the faces around her.
This week the same friend turned four, and we went to celebrate. The girls made a beeline for the bouncy castle as soon as they arrived and I think Elma might like it possibly even as much as the swings; she barely stopped bouncing all afternoon, and Kitty was so busy dividing her time between bouncing and running around with her friends that it was a while before she noticed the face painting going on in the corner.
She grabbed my hand, “Look Mummy, that’s where I had a butterfly on my arm last year!”
She watched carefully as a host of small pink butterflies started to flutter out from the corner and then with one backwards glance at me, ran off to have a number painted on the back of her hand, a sort of face painting version of the deli counter ticket machine. She and her friends stood and watched as a little blonde girl in a blue sundress acquired a glittery curl down the side of her face, running off to scamper across the bouncy castle whenever the standing still became a bit too much, and then it was her turn.
I’d wondered whether she would turn down her go when push came to shove, or whether she would have lost interest after the wait but she happily climbed up into the chair and sat patiently while she was decorated. And then as I turned around from giving Elma a boost back onto the bouncy castle there she was;
it’s a beautiful butterfly, there’s clearly some serious talent gone into the painting, but it was the smile that went with it that made me want to scoop her up and give her an enormous hug. She was just so happy, so completely and utterly thrilled with her butterfly that she looked fit to burst.
You would’t think a little bit of face paint should have that effect but it drove home just how much of a change there’s been in the last year for Kitty, and not just in height and shoe size.
I think you always know that you’re not really seeing the changes in your children as they actually happen, after those first newborn growth spurts when I swear I’ve watched my children getting longer before my very eyes, it’s all so very gradual, so very gentle in the day to day that it’s only in the milestones or when you stop to look that you can actually see the changes.
When I look back on my Siblings pictures, a year and a half’s worth of Me and Mine or the children’s monthly milestone pictures I can see the physical changes oh so clearly, but they don’t show the whole picture. They only show the physical changes and occasionally hint at the rest, in a caring gesture to a little sibling or pride at a giant Duplo construction. It’s the stories that go with the pictures that fill in the gaps.
On the surface it’s just a beautiful butterfly face painting (and a great view of Kitty’s tonsils!), but the comparison to last year is what’s special to me. In the last year she has become so much more confident, so very articulate and self assured, from a little girl who didn’t want her face painted and wouldn’t so much as go near the lady running it without me holding her hand to this.
My beautiful be-butterflied girl.