Ask any little girl under the age of eight her favorite color, and 9 out of 10 will answer wholeheartedly and without hesitation, “Pink.” Until the birth of my daughter, I never fathomed so many shades of pink. It colors their world to the point you’d think they’d run screaming. But for whatever reason (including theories reaching as far back as our hunting and gathering days), they just can’t get enough.
It was never my intention to raise Tate a girly-girl with purses and tutus, sparkly strawberry-scented body dust and glittery nail polish. But today, like most days, she’s wearing pink: pink pants with butterfly appliqués, a shirt bursting with rosebuds and pink bead-embellished sandals from a grandmother who’s far too accommodating to a three-year-old. It’s not for a lack of options, but try steering her toward the other colors and you’ll get the solemn empty promise that she’ll wear those things tomorrow. So I can’t say it surprised me when I decided to redecorate Tate’s bedroom, still apple green from when it was “the office,” that she wanted it to be pink.
“How about we paint your walls a fun orange?” I suggested in that overly enthusiastic, manipulative way adults use solely for small children.
“I want pink.”
“I know, what about…Tangerine?” I added a little shoulder shimmy in the hopes of conjuring up some sort of splashy tropical image of dancing women in swirly skirts with bananas piled on their heads. Tate was losing patience and by this time had decided I’d gone deaf.
First tip: When decorating your child’s bedroom, present it like a surprise and begin the project while they’re away: be it preschool, Grandma’s or on a play date, so long as you’re provided enough time to make substantial headway. Chances are, they’ll love it regardless, because even old toys look new within the splendor of freshly-coated walls.
We were headed for the paint store when Tate announced, “I want my room to be The Magical Meadow.” The force of her statement told me she had been giving it serious consideration.
I could see her big brother’s eyes light up in the rearview mirror. “Oooooh, do you want there to be faeries in it, Tate?”
“Yeah, faeries. Faeries and butterflies.”
“What about a rainbow?” he asked.
“Yes and a rainbow.” She paused to think, “And I want there to be a unicorn.”
“What else?” Macon prompted encouragingly.
I was quickly losing control of the situation, “I can do faeries, Tate, but a unicorn might be asking a bit much.”
Luckily Tate can be as agreeable as she is imaginative, but now her brother was caught up in the excitement.
“I want a giant spider on my ceiling.”
He presently had purple walls with rocket ships and glow-in-the-dark stars, none of which I’d had any intention of changing until middle school when he stopped having friends over out of fear of being ridiculed. I began a mental search, how to weave outer space with insects in a way that would be simple, cost-efficient and not too freaky for a five-year-old. As he described the giant spider and how its legs would reach down the walls, suddenly a handful of faeries didn’t sound so troublesome.
“Mom, can you do a praying mantis?”
So as I was saying—pink—the spectrum is almost unfathomable. Hot pinks, pale pinks, purple-y, peachy, Dusty Rose, Dawn, Morning Glory, Magic Moments, Candy Stripes, Cotton Candy, Bubblegum, Ballet Slippers, Dog’s Ear, Pop, Pink Passion, Pink Fizz, Watermelon, Grapefruit, as well as the more obscure Razzle Dazzle, Secret Rendezvous and Sentimental Journey. I chose three sample jars in hope of narrowing it down.
As the sample patches dried on Tate’s wall she skipped in to check my progress. Stopping short she cried, “Not that much pink! I want the whole wall pink!”
I tried to explain that I was just trying to get an idea of how the different shades of pink will look in different light. Once we decide, then we’ll paint the whole room. Sometimes I wonder what she must think of me.
My husband, the minimalist, suggested going the more subtle rather than playful route I had taken, so that combined with her pink paisley rug and pink polka-dot bedspread, we might spare the room from gag reflex. So of course upon entering the paint store for round two, Tate immediately became enraptured with one particular sample aptly named Easter Bunny.
Second tip: Avoid taking your child to the paint store. There are far too many options for their fickle minds to focus, and children can’t help themselves, they’re naturally drawn to the artificial and garish.
“Oh look Tate,” I held out a sample about two thousand shades lighter.
She shook Easter Bunny in my face, “This one!”
“But Tate, it has almost the same name. This one is called Easter Bonnet.”
“What’s a bonnet?” Macon wanted to know.
While Tate and Macon made themselves dizzy in one of the store’s swivel chairs, I took advantage of the fact that Tate can’t read, returned Easter Bunny to its proper turnstile and snuck over to purchase a sample of Pink Peony instead. As it turned out Pink Peony wasn’t worth the tantrum in the parking lot. I could tell within the first three brushstrokes it was beyond subtle. It was anemic, more like an embarrassed vanilla trying to fit in at the pink family reunion.
Third tip: Always start with paint samples. Colors never look the same on your walls as on a scrap of paper beneath a store’s fluorescent lights. It will save you money as well as help avoid the tragedy of being married to an unfortunate color for the next five years until you decide enough time has passed to warrant the effort and cost of yet another paint job.
Three trips to the paint store and five sample jars later we arrived—Ballerina. Pale but not pallid, sweet yet not saccharine.
“But where are the faeries?” Tate asked as her new walls dried.
“Flying,” I told her, as fast as the US mail can carry them. And when they arrive, I’m sure they’ll find Tate’s Magical Meadow as wondrous and whimsical a place to live and play as she does, until she becomes obsessed with turquoise and horses.