Parenting and a unicorn


Thanks to some free tickets I won from our local TV news station, 6 News Lawrence, I took the family to World of Fun on Saturday for a quick getaway.

While there, my daughter Ember (seen above) saw a face painter and inquired about getting it done.

“We’ll see,” I said.

It’s always “We’ll see” with my kids and things that cost money. They’re fickle. They change their minds. They’re not sure what they want. So, I start with “no” or “maybe” and see if they persist.

I do the same thing at work. I say no a lot. It helps weed out the serious requests from the ones that are truly needed or truly desired from the requests that aren’t well thought out.

But this time, the requests persisted. “Daddy, can I get my face painted? Can we find out about getting my face painted? Daddy, please?”

Oh, all right. Let’s go find out.

I was expecting a $5 face painting. I was prepared to go as high as $7. It is, after all, someone doing art on a canvas of sorts.

But the face-painting was priced by the type of image chosen. Of course, my daughter picked the one with a unicorn that was $14.99. After feeling my heart sink into my stomach, I gave an awkward “We’ll need to go ask mommy” response and walked away.

There was  no way I was going to pay $15 for something that would be washed off by morning. No. Way.

I told the wife. She agreed; that is a lot of money, perhaps too much, for something as fleeting as a face painting. So I told Ember, knowing she’d be disappointed but hoping for the best.

I was unprepared for the tears that followed and what I call “The saddest face known to man.”

“Amy, don’t we have a responsibility to teach our kids about buying things of value,” I pleaded? “Shouldn’t we teach them to be somewhat responsible with money? I mean, this thing is just going to get washed off and …”

“Yes,” Amy stopped me. “But, it does hold value to her. She enjoys getting her face painted.”

“And how much did your motorcycle cost?”


It’s not that we didn’t have they money. My parents had sent us some cash before we left, so the cost of the face painting was made moot. But in my fashion typical, I was questioning missing out on a lesson of money and value.

In turn, I was missing out on a greater lesson: to discover and celebrate the things my daughter likes and encourage them, even if they cost more money than I deem worthy of the expense.

And so, $14.99 later, my daughter, my wonderful, sweet princess of a daughter, had her unicorn face painting. She was beaming and she even received several compliments from people who walked up to her, unprovoked, just to tell her how great her face painting was.

And I took a picture. In fact, I took several pictures to keep the image long after the paint is gone.

Lesson learned. It was worth every penny.

6 thoughts on “Parenting and a unicorn

  1. Brandi

    Eric! What a great post. I have found myself in simular situations and have to remind myself that while I can’t (nor should I ) buy my kids everything they want, there are those times where paying alittle extra for something makes them smile alittle brighter. And maybe that will be a special memory later in life. BTW…that really is a great face paint! She looks ADORABLE!

  2. Sid Burgess

    Great story Eric. You inspired me to write about what happened just today that brought a similar life lesson to me. Will share with you on Google+ (where I found this link initially)

  3. ericjgruber Post author

    Brandi and Sid, thank so much for the kind words. Isn’t it fascinating how simple decisions like this can cause so much indecision?

    Parenting is pretty tough. I suppose our parents lived through it, so we’ll probably be OK also. (I hope!)

  4. Sue Haley

    Eric you did a great thing today. You acted like the fun, easygoing dad all dads want to be, all kids hope to have, and in essence, you laid your life down for your family. In my book, that’s some pretty great parenting. Good job, brother, i bet she’ll remember it for a long time to come.

    1. ericjgruber Post author

      Thanks, Sue! I hope she does remember it for a long time. Heck, I might even get that picture framed. Ha!

  5. David Eldridge

    You know why I don’t have a blog? Because I always, remorselessly say, NO!!! That is not the stuff of blogs. 🙂 That is a great shot. I am glad you decided to get the face paint job done, and I am more glad that you took the pictures. And being the radical subjectivist that I am, I am always explaining to my children that price is determined by the willing buyer and the willing seller. ¶ My daughter not so long ago asked how to get the price changed for a thing, wondering if the president does it. I thought, have I taught you nothing? Sadly, there is too much truth to her notion of (wage and) price fixing (which is too well known by Hoover, FDR, Nixon, and any congress that has changed the minimum wage). ¶ We need to talk to Mr. Obama about working face painter’s wages down to something more reasonable. Because I wouldn’t mind getting something like that done for my daughter. 🙂 … And I still need to talk my wife into a nicer *bi*cycle. Any pointers would be appreciated, Eric.


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