My father, a retired school teacher, painted houses during the summer for nearly thirty years. By watching him, I learned that the time you spend prepping a room is never wasted.
Each time I paint, like I did earlier this week, I unscrew the light switch plates and seal them in a plastic bag. I cover the floor with drop cloths. I protect the baseboards and trim with painter's tape. I gather all the necessary supplies, and I keep a cloth rag and paper towels nearby in case of spills or drips.
Sometimes I want to bypass these preliminary steps and simply jump into the task.
As I painted, I thought about this desire to skip ahead. (It distracted me from thinking about how frequently I couldn't recall whether I just painted a section or whether I still needed to paint it, much like when I can't remember if I washed my hair or just thought about washing my hair while in the shower. Obviously, I'm battling short-term memory issues.)
At any rate, unlike actually painting, prepping a room doesn't yield immediate visible results. In fact, at the onset, it slows you down.
There are many times when I'm tempted to cut corners and skip the prep, and not just while painting. I want to shoo my kids aside in the kitchen so I can cook dinner unencumbered instead of parceling out whose turn it is to stir next. I want to fasten their buttons or tie their laces quickly instead of laboriously teaching them how to do it themselves. I want the end product of their good behavior even before I patiently instruct them on what that behavior should be.
In other words, I have days when I want my children to be freshly-painted finished products, days when I forget that this whole parenting experience is one long process of setting foundations and laying down enough drop cloths to catch spills along the way.
As I navigated around the room, toggling back and forth between edging with my brush and covering wide swatches with my roller, I made quick progress. My thorough preparation at the onset, even if mundane, made the process smooth, the clean-up easy, and the end result successful.
Time prepping -- whether in painting or in parenting -- never is wasted time.
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