I showed up, and it was pretty adorable. My little son ran over to me as soon as he saw me, hugged me, and said, "Mama." No one else's kid did that. Suckers. Someone else's kid came up to me and petted my coat's collar, verifying how cute it was. After some welcomes to all of us, the daycare ladies gave everyone these little tiny pumpkins and started setting out bowls of finger paint on the tables so that we could decorate. All of the other toddlers watched and waited respectfully--except my son. He got off my lap and immediately ran over and dunked his palms into dark purple paint. Then, he went running toward me--in my new coat. I sprang up and backed away as quickly as possible, not wanting to try out the machine washable feature yet. It took me forever to rip it off because those goddamned industrial hooks I was so proud of wouldn't come undone. Oh, vanity, thy name is Richelle! As I struggled and eluded him, my son went on a rampage, leaving purple handprints everywhere--furniture, floor, himself... The daycare ladies laughed it off since the paint was washable, and I finally managed to jettison the coat into the hall outside the room.
When I wrangled my son and cleaned off his palms, we returned to the group and found them all diligently decorating their pumpkins at little kid-sized tables. I settled my son down and showed him how to lightly dip just his fingertips into paint to make polka dots on the pumpkin. We made a pretty sweet pattern of orange and red dots and stopped there because less is more, not like those other paint-happy kids. I left the pumpkin there to dry and then took my son for a walk around the room to distract him. When we returned, we were met with a horrible sight:
Someone was stealing our pumpkin.
This other family who'd worked near us was holding up our pumpkin and grinning gleefully at their son, cooing over "his" amazing work. They didn't speak English, but I'm pretty sure they were heralding him as the next Picasso and making plans to sign him up for art lessons. Which left me in a bind. I don't like confrontation, and it seemed so bitchy to be like, "No, that's ours." And what if they denied it? Were we going to get into an altercation over a pumpkin in the middle of a toddler daycare? Would they understand the mix-up with the language barrier? As I stood there dumbfounded and distracted, my son took the opportunity to climb onto a chair and promptly keel over the back of it, landing face first and spread-eagle on the ground. He started shrieking, and the entire room came to a stop to stare at that awful mother who let her son get hurt while standing right beside him. I picked him up and hugged him, and we took another walk around the room. He didn't have any injuries, and in a less than a minute, everything was cool and he wanted to get down (and head right back to that chair).
As I returned to the others, I heard the daycare ladies say, "Let's write names on these pumpkins so they don't get lost!" That would've been a great idea 10 minutes ago! And before I could do anything, that other family had written their son's name on my son's pumpkin. It was lost to us forever.
I let the pumpkin go. I mean, I probably would've thrown it out after Halloween anyway. Still, I can't shake the weirdness of that pumpkin sitting at home on their dining room table, as they show it off to family and friends passing through. And all the while, they'll remain in ignorance that it's another child's work they're admiring. But hey, who am I to diss their happiness? I should be glad my son's superior art skills can bring them such joy, and maybe we really have set this kid up for art lessons. Will he ever be able to top my son's art talents?