I was sitting on the sofa, legs out, shoes and socks off, while my five-year-old daughter, Norah, painted my toenails. It was a Sunday, and for the past two Sundays I’d spent an hour or so at Norah’s Beauty Salon. Which wasn’t really a beauty salon, naturally, but just our living room. But to Norah, my brown-haired and blue-green-eyed, daughter, it was real.
Below my heels were paper towels. And to the side of my feet were 20 or so bottles of Piggy Paint, nail polish that was marketed as safe for five-year-olds. The deal was that she would only paint my toes. That way I could hide them in my shoes.
Norah spoke with an accent when running her beauty salon. It was husky for a five-year-old, with a bit of a southern twang. She told me that I had pretty feet, a complement I’d never heard. Then she asked me about my unicorn.
“Oh… yeah… my unicorn. What’s her name again?” I asked.
“Princess Celestia,” Norah replied.
I honestly had no idea what she was talking about. Usually I don’t when visiting Norah’s Beauty Salon. But I play along. So much of what she has to say is forced adult dialogue. It’s how she assumes adults must speak when visiting beauty salons.
Norah’s sweet little play voice, her smile, the way she concentrates so hard on painting my toes, the ways she hums when opening each bottle of paint, and then asks if my toes look pretty, all of it makes my heart feel warm. It makes me feel tingles in my toes that I’d never felt before having a child. I don’t know if this feeling will change when she get’s older. When someone says a daughter melts a dad’s heart, I assume this is what they mean.
Before having a little girl, I never would’ve agreed to let someone paint my toenails. Not in a million years. But with Norah, I don’t mind. She has more power over me than I do her. This doesn’t mean that I don’t enforce rules. It doesn’t mean that I don’t give her a time out now and again. What it means is that on a Sunday afternoon, I will let her paint my nails. It means that I will let her put makeup on my face. It means that I will read Fancy Nancy (a book about a bratty little girl who drives me crazy) every night for several weeks because I love having Norah snuggled up next to me.
Honestly, my daughter, at age five, is the sweetest and most frustrating person I have ever met. She is irrational. She screams. She throws fits. She tells me that I am mean and that she will never talk to me again. In so many ways, she’s a brat. Yet she gives off a warmth that makes me love the hell out of her even when she acts like a little shit. Even when I want to pull my hair out because she’s on the floor, arms flailing, because I cut her toast into triangles when she wanted squares, I still love her. It’s like some gift from God. Some reward to make putting up with a 5-year-old tolerable.
Norah finished my toes. Then she looked up at me with a large smile, and said, “What do you think?”
“They look wonderful,” I said. “I love the colors.”
She always does a good job, actually. Not that I am a connoisseur of painted nails, but I must say that she keeps the paint on the nail, which is nice.
Norah nodded, sharply, and then said, “Now let’s do your fingers.”
I thought about how my intentions were to just do my toes. They would be hidden in my shoes. I thought about going to work the next day with painted fingernails. I thought about the questions. Then I looked at Norah, felt my heart melt a little more, and said, “Okay.”
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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Fast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.