Life has been too busy for artmaking this past week or so. It’s not that I couldn’t have made the time for an evening painting session, or opened my sketchbook one lunchtime: simply that my little girl turned 3, and we threw a birthday party for her, and this somehow ended up consuming every bit of my physical, mental and emotional energy.

There was facepainting at the party, though. After sitting patiently for the duration of my flower-painting, suddenly she grabbed the paintbrush and daubed her other cheek, first with tentative streaks of red, orange and yellow, then more heavily with her favourite colour: black … It’s only just glimpseable here, but in its full glory, that big black smudge gave her the appearance of a chimney sweep. We all laughed (we couldn’t not), but M was extremely pleased with her handiwork.

I’m never overly fussy about mess, particularly when there’s painting involved, and yet it was hard for me to relinquish that brush and allow her to make the marks, however messy, that she wanted to make: to allow her to smear up the paint pans, to “do it wrong” – but so rewarding to see that impish smile as she admired the results of her creativity. It feels as though, in a very real way, my daughter is a Big Girl now (though her own feelings about the business of suddenly aging by one whole number have veered wildly from total, stubborn denial to huge enthusiasm and back again) and it’s a bumpy ride as we negotiate a path towards the ever-greater independence that life will ask of her. Whatever the challenges, she’s such a spirited, vibrant and funny little girl. I think we’re going to be doing some pretty cool artmaking together … and I know which of us will be calling the creative shots.

Happy birthday, sweet girl.