Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Just a Fresh Coat of Paint

I am pretty sure that marriages have fallen apart because of the words, "All we need is a fresh coat of paint in that room." Families have been destroyed and perhaps countries have even gone to war over this innocent statement.

There is so much more to painting a room. The room has to be cleaned, rearranged, and everything must be covered, and then you can paint. I don't think I have ever painted one coat of paint on a wall. It always requires two. The off-handed way that people suggest that a room can have paint slapped on it and everything will be great is so deceptive that I believe that it should be against the law to say something that ridiculous.

I have heard people say that a room just needs fresh coat of paint on those home improvement shows more times than I can count. I guess they are allowed to say that because that is what the show is about, but is so unfair to real people who attempt to pull off these things at home to cut to the finished room 3 min after they suggest a new coat of paint. They never show the work crew, all the work that is done, or give you the actual time it takes to get the job done. All of that is very wrong!

After watching Randy Pausch's The Last Lecture, and seeing him on 20/20 and Oprah last year, I told Amy that I was going to let the kids paint their rooms. On the show we were watching, Randy talked about how wonderful he thought it was that his parents let him paint his room any way he wanted. He painted murals and little amusing things on his walls. It a very moving experience.

If you haven't seen the Last Lecture, you should take the hour and 16 mins and do it.

Last week, I began to work on Calvin's room. The entire room needed a base coat to cover the odd tan color that had been on the walls long before we moved in the house 3 years ago. Then we could paint the walls with the sky blue color he picked out. Only after the room had been painted a uniform color would the Pokemon mural finally go on his wall.

Amy and I have been married for 13 years and she knows me pretty well by now. She understands that when I paint it is best to leave me alone and let me do it by myself. If she had forgotten that unwritten rule, she was reminded when I remarked on the inadequate nature of the tape job that I was inspecting before the first coat of paint. With a hurt look on her face she said, "I did that." Then she threw some offensive hand signal at me. I love the fact that she doesn't put up with my bad behavior.

I have always felt that there is something very Zen to the nature of painting. Once I become one with the brush, and together we transform a wall from one color to another, it is very calming. It is like meditating.

When I began to prepare to paint my son's room, Amy asked me if I wanted her to take the kids out of the house.

"No," I said, "They can help me."

"Are you kidding?" Amy asked me in that way that tells me she thinks I am pulling her leg.

There is nothing Zen about adding children to a paint job. I love how eager they are to help with any and every project, but there is so much energy that it is hard to get them to focus on anything. It is barely controlled chaos. I think I would have had a better result if I had tied a paint roller to my dog's tail and just chased her around the room.

Maybe 6 and 10 are inappropriate ages to expect children to become good painters. I tried to be a good Dad and tell them everything they needed to know to be good painters, but maybe they weren't listening, or just forgot- over, and over, and over again. My children were trained at school to think that painting is fun, and that no matter what you create, it is art. I explained the difference between fun and work, art and painting walls, and I even paid them in Pokemon cards for their help, but they became worse the longer the paint job went on. Painting can quickly change from a fun new experience, to a mind numbingly, boring exercise in paint application for a 6 year old.

By day 3, it was all I could do not scream incoherent gibberish at my wonderful children. They didn't understand that touching freshly painted walls makes me a little jumpy. It was news to them that when you paint a wall you must cover the entire wall with paint, not create a wall spotted with thick layers of paint, thin layers of paint, and no paint at all. Maybe it is my fault. I mean, I never did learn to appreciate their tiny painted footprints around the house.

Even with plastic drop cloths, hearing my son say," Uh oh," was alarming. Oh well, the rug was old. Maybe no one will notice the new light blue shaded area in the center of the room, or the speckled zones on the corners of the carpet.

What originally began as a recreation of a warm and fuzzy memory from Randy Pausch's childhood that would have my son painting the pictures of his choice on his walls, transformed into Dad's personal home improvement project. It was a natural progression from everybody helping in a family activity, to a smaller more controlled workforce, to me doing it all the way I thought it should be done. I don't think that was the idea Randy was promoting.

My family survived painting Calvin's room, but I am still in the middle of putting up the ceiling fan to replace the defective light that used to be there. I am taking it slowly because the mental picture of me dangling from my son's 12 foot ceiling while electricity shoots through my body, bothers me. Maybe I should turn the main power switch off. I did train Amy to kick the ladder out from under me if I begin to glow or behave in an oddly electric way. I think I'll be alright...

The house does look a little better, but there is much more to the ordeal of painting than, "just a fresh coat of paint."

Latias - the Pokemon on my son's wall.