Letting Our Kids Be Experts

Meg and her friends at the post-makeover photo shoot

Meg’s dream came true yesterday when she hosted a beauty makeover party for her 12th birthday.  She did a make up tutorial and makeover for eight of her friends.  It took over two hours to do every girl and her back ached by the end, but there was nothing she would rather have done for her own birthday party.

Afterwards, we went to their school grounds and did a photo shoot in the setting sun.  All nine preteen girls, giggling and feeling beautiful.  Meg was the beauty guru for the day, and sharing her passion with her friends made her happier than receiving any gifts (not that she minded the presents as well, of course!).

There’s something in all of us that desires to contribute to society, all the better if we are an expert at something.  My very wise friend Norman once told me that he lets his teenage son Brett teach him how to play the guitar even though Norm already knows how, because, for one, Brett had been taking some high-quality lessons and had surpassed his dad in his ability, and also because, as Norm said with fatherly pride, “It’s great to let our kids be experts.”

I do recall showing my mom some figure skating moves at the ice rink in New York when I was in the fourth grade.  Initially, my parents simply didn’t want me and my sisters to be wall-huggers at the rink, so they signed us up for group lessons.  Well, I really took to skating.  I advanced from level to level, until one day when she was picking me up, I was able to show off some jumps and spins as she watched nervously from the side.  “Wow, you’ve gotten good,” exclaimed my mother as she asked me how to do those moves. You’d think I had just won the gold at the winter Olympics!

My son, like many boys, really got into Legos as a youngster.  At first I was giving him directions, but he quickly moved on to more and more difficult pieces until he was working on some humongous space craft with about a million pieces.  Whoever designs them must be completely nuts, but somehow the pieces all came together in his capable 10-year old hands.  “Mom, so you put this thing here and snap it that way.  Oh, and can you help me find this piece?  I’ll show you where it goes.”  I usually found an excuse to slither out of there soon thereafter, but David could have worked with his son all night.  Honestly, I was not all that interested in Legos, but I liked being his pupil.  I know it made Josh feel proud.

The beauty guru at work

So back to Meg.  She has spent the latter half of her 12 long years studying beauty — hair, nails, and makeup — to where she is a bona fide guru today.  Thanks to YouTube, she has watched tons of videos by other beauty experts, and she has been practicing filming herself giving tutorials on our video camera set up on a tripod in her room.  Her first segment is going to be “Putting on Perfect Playground Makeup for Middle School.”  Move over, Michelle Phan!

She has invested most of her birthday and Christmas moneys in beauty supplies: shadows, cheeks, mascara, lipstick, pencils, etc.  She enjoys putting them on herself to the extent that her own face is a canvas upon which she practices her art.  She usually takes them off before leaving the house.  I love letting her apply shadows on my eyes.  “Mom, your eyelids are so loose and wiggle with my brush,” she complains as she compares her taut skin to my middle-aged one.  I’m trying to help her learn to work with all types of customers, of which she shall have many in the very near future.

My "After," thanks to Meg

Don’t we all need to feel we contribute to society?  I even have a task assigned to our dog, Sushi: clean-up patrol.  Whenever we drop something while cooking, he hurries over for his duty.

Do your kids have some expertise they share with you and the society?  Let me know!

A First Birthday Surprise

David and I were getting ready one afternoon to attend the first birthday party for our neighbor’s daughter.  She was born only a few weeks before ours, so we were eager not only to celebrate their child’s milestone but also, vicariously, our own.  We were also taking notes to help us plan our own bash for our son.

We were running a bit late as usual, but we sure wanted to get there before the scheduled arrival of the “Special Celebrity Guests.”  They were characters from a popular TV show geared towards very young children, so I knew that Joshua would be excited to meet them.

As I was changing his diaper one last time, I happen to glance outside our front window.  A beat-up car was puffing down our quiet cul-de-sac.  It was an ancient model like a Datsun B210, which my older sister used to drive in high school.  In fact, I bet it was the exact same car except that one of the windows was completely covered (or replaced) by duct tape, and each panel of the automobile was in various stages of a paint job.  This car  parked, of all places, right in front of our home.

I realize that in many parts of the world, a sight of such a beat-up car wouldn’t cause any alarm, but not here in my suburban paradise.  Our city is clean and pristine, and you never see cars held together by duct tape.  I raised my eyebrow as my mama bear instincts took over.

Two shady characters climbed out of the car — both from the passenger side, as the driver’s door was permanently shut.  The platinum blonde twentysomething girl shared the last drag of a cigarette with the young man with the shaved head who then squished the butt with his Doc Martens.

I called upstairs for David.

It was a warmish day for February, but I was still surprised at their skimpy attire which clearly revealed their generous body art.  I was therefore somewhat relieved when they popped open their trunk and pulled out some bright-colored attire.  The girl stepped into a yellow colored suit, and the guy into the purple one.  They zipped each other up to their necks.

Before I could realize what was going on, they then grabbed two round things out of the trunk and pulled them over their heads.  That’s when it finally dawned on me:

Oh my goodness.  They are the Special Celebrity Guests!

After checking each other one last time, they walked up to our neighbor’s house and rang the doorbell.

I yelled for David to hurry down.  I finished dressing my baby, grabbed my bag, and we ran down the street to the party.  “Honey, we’ve got to warn them!  Children, avert your eyes!”

Too late.  By the time we arrived, the two TV characters were happily mingling with the little guests and their parents while their theme song played.  Like characters at Disneyland, they only gesticulated without verbalizing.  Androgynous characters anyway, no one could tell who was inside those innocent-looking costumes.  Only a couple of children ran off crying, instinctively sensing danger. If the parents only knew.

The Special Guests then popped a CD in the stereo and proceeded with their show.  They hopped and moved just like they do on the TV screen.  The parents coaxed their children to sing along.  They were surprisingly entertaining, and, for a moment, even I forgot what was inside those costumes.

After they finished, they collected their check from our neighbor and left.  I peeked out their window to watch the pair as they returned to their junk mobile.  They emerged from their costumes, shared another cigarette, climbed  back into the car from one side, and drove off, most likely to their next party gig.

I never did tell my neighbor what I witnessed that day before their sweet daughter’s party.

And I have been searching for a lesson in this whole thing ever since.

Don’t judge a book by its cover?

Beauty is only skin deep?

Material for my blog someday?

Parents, beware before booking entertainment for your kid’s party?

All of the above.