The Art of Finger Painting

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The Art of Finger Painting

By Andrea Goto

“Look at her long fingers!” my husband said with pride when the doctor handed him our newborn baby.

“Look at her face!” I said in horror.

Don’t get me wrong, Ava was beautiful from day one, it’s just that those delicate fingers made her face look like it was on the loosing end of a fight with a weed whacker.

I examined her fingers closely and immediately saw the problem. Her fingernails were misshapen and torn. I shuddered. Immediately after giving birth most women bond with their baby by feeding them. I clipped my daughter’s nails.

“Scraggly” nails as I describe them, are my pet peeve. The feeling is equivalent to watching flies feed on the crusted oatmeal in the corner of a baby’s mouth. And it’s not only un-filed nails that send me, but also bitten, flakey or dirty ones. Tonight a crazy man approached my daughter and me at Barnes & Noble. He smelled as if he hadn’t bathed since Woodstock and had tried to disguise the stench with grain alcohol. He had two teeth to his name and his shorts were so tight I could see his pulse. I could forgive all of this. But when he brushed his hair from his face, I zeroed in on his nails, which looked as if he’d tried to hand dredge a septic system. I couldn’t decide if I should run away or sit him down and heat up some paraffin.

I relish the chance to perform a mani/pedi on the needy. Twice a year, I give my mother-in-law a pedicure, which is no small task considering I have to remove the polish I painted 6 months prior. I even took on the feet of my 78-year-old father—with the help of a belt sander (I didn’t know calluses could calcify).

I began painting Ava’s nails as soon as she busted out of the swaddle. I’d sneak into her bedroom at night to apply a fresh coat and turn on the overhead fan to speed the drying process. She’d wake in the morning and stare at her fingers and toes in appreciation, as any girl would.


The polish caused people to notice her hands. “She going to be a pianist,” they’d say. “Or maybe a surgeon.” Secretly, I hoped for nail technician.

She had all the makings early on. At two, she could sit statue still even when I stretched her toes to capacity with oversized separators. She never complained, unless she chipped a nail.

“Mommy!” she’d cry. “My big daddy toe is all scraggly!”

That’s when I knew she was ready.

Last summer I took her to her first spa pedicure. The massage chair shook her little body around like a maraca and I’m not sure she really needed her entire leg pumiced, but she seemed happy. As our toes dried, I looked down at her feet, red from the boiling soak and overzealous slough and asked what she thought.


“Can we do this every day, Mommy?”

I’ve had a lot of proud mommy moments, but none like this.

Like me, I think mani/pedis run in Ava’s blood. Each night during her bath, she washes my feet. She soaps them up and gives me a massage, her long fingers tunneling through my tired toes. It’s mommy heaven. She asks to paint them, but I won’t let her—not until she completes her 2,000 hours as my apprentice.

In typical mommy/daughter fashion, Ava and I don’t see eye-to-eye on many things. She loves pink; I like brown. She loves horses; I’m convinced they are domesticated dinosaurs. But when she “gasps” at another child’s chipped polish and offers my services, I know my little apple hasn’t fallen too far from the tree.

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Reader Comments:


@Chris Paschke: Funny you should mention it, I've been trying to master the French braid for 3 years now. Had success at Ava's recent gymnastics showcase. Even got a compliment from another mom. I used hairspray, which seemed a little wrong--and yet so right smile.

By Andrea Goto on June 05, 2011


I love this for so many reasons. My husband and I just had our daughter in December so she is 5 mos old. I first polished her toes at 3 mos and some people thought I was out of my mind, but it looked so good!! I have done hair/nails for approx 12 years now so, needles to say, I can't wait until her hair grows long enough for me to braid and do tons of things with. I always look at nails and hair and I'm pretty positive my behaviors will rub off onto my daughter. It's so nice to see I'm not the only one...great blog! smile

By Chris Paschke on June 02, 2011


I completely agree w/ Sue Strmler~ The stinky comment leaver has prob. never had a mani/pedi. & is just jealous;) Love it!!

By Anonymous on June 01, 2011


<3 <3 <3 This!!!!A mommy after my own heart!!!

By Anonymous on June 01, 2011


Loved your story! I find that the comment about the gentleman in the bookstore from a reader who is offended a wee bit off base! No where did I caught that he was "homeless"- life is too short to be constantly on the defensive! If there were more mothers like Andrea who share "Special Time" with their daughters maybe we wouldn't have so many troubled teenagers these days! See you at the Salon!

By Sue Stremler on May 25, 2011


Hi Sweetie, My sides hurt from laughing. I am amazed by your incrediable talent and wonderful sense of humor! I just told your Mom you deserve a lot more pay than whatever it is your're getting! Love you bunches! Michelle

By Michelle Clark on May 25, 2011


As someone who works with our homeless population, I found your remarks regarding the "crazy man" at Barnes and Noble insulting and insensitive including the comments about your in-laws. IF this was meant to be funny, I missed the humor completely.

By Marjo Zelinsky on May 24, 2011


Hi I like Watching Paula Deen's Cooking show! smile I't is awesome! smile

By Rachel Dasti on May 15, 2011


Hi I like you little girl kid! Also I like your Mommy! smile

By Rachel Dasti on May 15, 2011


Thanks for the Finger Painting blog.My mom is very particular about her nails-always kept short with clear polish.When I was home yet she would get on me if mine were not up to snuff or if I let them grow a bit and used colored polish. Funny now that I myself am a Lady of a Certain Age, my nails are always short with clear polish too.

By Jersey Lady on May 15, 2011


this is what I call a kodak moment, cause daughter tells mommy stuff that she wouldn't tell before and it stays at the spa.special moments.

By cindy on May 15, 2011


I appreciate your dedication and love to your daughter....but shuddering at the sight of your newborn baby... A gift from God...What if it had been something couldn't fix ?

By Anonymous on May 15, 2011


I never had a mother daughter moment like this...but have had a pedicure and it's always fun to have a good friend go with you and have lots of fun and laughter time.

By Debra Watts on May 15, 2011


heehee - I think we're a little guilty of this too in our house - I've been painting Naomi's toes since Valentine's Day (she was 9 months old), and I do not plan to stop until she leaves for college!

By Martha Lee on May 12, 2011


Hehe. This made me giggle at the thought of how much I loved nail polish as a girl and now, how I adore a pedicure. What a fun thing to share with your little girl!

By Erica on May 12, 2011


@Christine Hall: Thank YOU for the nice comment and the beautiful photo!

By andrea Goto on May 12, 2011


@Libbie I've seen your nails. Luckily, you have a great personality smile

By Andrea Goto on May 12, 2011


@Andrea Lepinske: And let me guess, you paint your daughters' nails rainbow colored? I think it's all the PreK rage right now. As if it weren't hard enough to paint their nails ONE color. Thanks for your comment!

By Andrea Goto on May 11, 2011


I just love your stories and your blog

By christine hall on May 11, 2011


Please don't look at my nails...I'm afraid we could no longer be friends. Great post!

By Libbie Summers, Senior Food Editor on May 11, 2011

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