RAWR, it’s baby tiger!

We experienced an insanely cute and proud moment this past weekend: Keaton had his first face painting experience ever, and he was the most adorable baby tiger!

(The kids’ face painting program and festivities were in homage of the Italian Festival that was happening last weekend.)

Excited for Keaton’s first face painting and bouncy castle experience — when I showed him photos of what face painting was, he, too, was looking forward to it — we arrived on site at the event early on Saturday morning. Unfortunately, the wind was so strong that the bouncy castles and rides were postponed. Instead, Keaton spent an adventurous morning exerting his energy at the nearby playground and playing alongside other kids, whose parents also waited patiently for the weather to be more forgiving. Alas, the wind persisted, so we informed our little man that nap time was nearing and we’d have to go home, but that after his nap we’d try the festivities again.

By the time Keaton had woken up from his nap, it was already late in the afternoon. But he woke up with the motivation and eagerness to continue on with his day, and excitedly helped us get him ready to go have his face painted and explore. It was a sweet and heavenly moment for us dishevelled and raccoon-eyed parents, as it’s customary for our little guy to scream our building down when it’s time to get ready.

As the weather gods had it, when we arrived on scene, the bouncy castles were still sleeping sheepishly flat on the grass — the wind hadn’t subsided. Nevertheless, face painting was our goal. The lineup wasn’t too long, but lo and behold, I had waited for almost two hours. I even laughed with the mom behind me and joked that we could’ve napped during the whole wait time. Luckily, the organizers and volunteers had bocce ball and colouring books to keep the kids busy, which Keaton and his daddy had spent much of the time enjoying.

Keaton loved bocce ball, or rather, his own version of it. He had the idea of rolling the balls one by one along the wooden panels. When the awesome volunteer saw his plans, she immediately jumped in to help him achieve his vision and helped him line the wooden planels and pop them at an angle so that he could roll the balls down. I could see she was amused as she watched him concocting his master engineering plans.

Our little guy has always been very curious, inventive, and idea-oriented, and loves to problem-solve. Thus, seeing him orchestrate a whole setup with the help of a perceptive and eager adult, was very heartwarming. Other kids also came to play alongside him. They, too, were fascinated; and I had the pleasure of helping out and showing them how to set everything up.

We were surprised that Keaton hadn’t grown too fussy after waiting for almost two hours to get his face painted. (Thankfully, he’d found and created his own entertainment!) When it was finally his turn, my husband and I expected him to sit for a few seconds and perhaps fuss or cry or run off after the first few paint strokes. After all, he’s a highly energetic little man that never sits still. But to our surprise and amazement, he sat still the whole way through! He was good at listening to instructions, too, such as when our lovely artist asked him to move forward on the chair or lift his chin. We could tell he was a bit shy, but very determined to see it through at the same time. Perhaps the feeling of the brushes was relaxing for him, like an ASMR effect. Who knew!

One thing’s for sure: my husband and I were flabbergasted. He was the youngest face painting client of all, and was so patient. We were deeply proud. We also felt a sense of love and community when other parents and kids gathered close to watch him get his face painted. He was just so good and cute! He was the first baby tiger, and everyone’s hearts melted. Especially ours.

Events in our lives have been challenging, and everything is far from OK, but these raw and sweet moments in life are what sustain us and give us joy and hope. I’m very grateful for our talented face painter, who had a magical effect on children. Keaton felt safe in her presence. As for us parents, she brought immense joy and endless smiles to our lives from this one beautiful exchange. We loved when she showed him his face in the mirror. We could tell how proud she was of her work, and how happy she was for him to see his tiger-esque self.

At first, Keaton was a bit reserved and uncertain to see himself in the mirror. But soonafter, he adopted his new identity with pride. When it came time for a bath, he was also very accepting that it was time to let go of his face paint. He thus looked in the mirror and waved, and said, “Bye bye, Roar!” Then, he proceeded to wash off the paint himself in the bath, like a big kid. I think our hearts swelled with warmth and pride all weekend.

Cheers to our little tiger, whom we trust, and will guide, to roar through life and all adversity to become the best version of himself. We love you, Keaton.