I’m leaving for vacation this weekend, hallelujah!!! I literally look forward to this all year. It’s not enough. Ten days per year to disappear with your family is simply not enough. While our society is collapsing, and we have to figure out how to rebuild it, can we maybe work in some extra vacation days?
Anyway with all the goings-on to prepare for this trip, and more baseball, and a friend’s birthday party, and a class I’m taking, and a family reunion, I haven’t had a chance to write a new post so I dug down into the archives. This is an oldie but goodie from my early years of child care, when I was still kind of amazed at the amount of destruction several small people in a confined space can create. (I’m over being awed by it now.)
I used to write for a provider newsgroup (remember those?), and the title of my column was “What Was I Thinking?” So I cleverly named this entry:
No Really, What Was I Thinking?
Today was just one of those days. Rainy. Muggy. I don’t mean just muggy, I mean the kind of muggy that my uncle describes as “walking out the door and having someone put a wet towel on your head.” The pressure is palpable. Everyone’s tired and cranky. None of the kids have been sleeping well this week and they are overtired. So in all my wisdom, I decided to let them paint!
The 13-month-old was down for a nap (or a half-hour screaming session, I should say, because he’s pretty much given up on the whole sleeping thing) so I let the 4-year-old, 2-year-old, and 18-month-old have some paper and paint.
Older Son, the 4-year-old, is actually doing pretty well. I give him droppers, which he loves, but he’s not happy with the first two so I have to keep trying until I find one which is 1. not plugged with old paint and 2. provides the proper amount of suction for the artiste’s desired paint splattering effect. The 18-month-old, Mr. G, is using his dropper as a paintbrush. So be it, at least the paint is getting on the paper and being moved around in an appropriately artistic fashion.
In the meantime, Younger Son (the 2-year-old) can’t figure out the dropper so he just paints himself. It’s all over his hands, arms, stomach, chest, and face (for just this reason, I pretty much get him naked anytime he paints). Older sees how delightful this is and paints himself too.
Younger has so much paint on his body, I literally can not get it all off with a washcloth or wipe, so there is only one thing left to do. Into the kitchen sink he goes. There is paint in his nose, eyes, and ears. Even after I wipe his face twice he still looks like he’s been punched in the nose and crying for two days (once our doctor got very concerned about the tint of his skin. We had to explain and, well, I guess he believed us). While I’m showering Younger with the sink hose, Older takes his self-beautification one step further and paints his hair.
Older sees that Younger is having a personal rubdown in the sink. Was there some microscopic part of me that believed I could get away with that one? “Momeeeeeee, I waaannaaa go in the sink tooooo!” This is so strange to me because it’s always the other way around: Older the ringleader and Younger the devoted partner in crime.
While I, as the mommy and knower of all things regarding my children’s emotional growth, am grappling with this sudden unexpected power shift, Mr. G trots into the kitchen, opens the cabinet, and dumps all the spoons and forks on the floor. I take Younger out of the sink, grab a towel, and herd them both into the play room.
Mr. G is pitching a screaming fit: Oh no, put me back in coach, I’m ready to destroy something else! Older is climbing into the sink. Normal mothers would stop this from happening, but…I am not a normal mother in a normal situation at the moment.
So, alright, fine, let it go, he’s happy there, don’t break it. At least he’ll stay put for maybe five minutes. I decide that Mr. G can do one of his favorite jobs — wipe the table with a cloth. The paint on the table is actually at a minimum because I’ve finally (after two years of doing this job, mind you) figured out to give them each just a LITTLE bit of paint.
But, you say, if I gave them only a LITTLE bit of paint, how did Younger manage to paint his whole body? Let’s just say he’s a very resourceful little man.
Thinking I’ll try to do something productive in the middle of this disaster, I hand Mr. G a Clorox wipe (clean the paint – kill the germs!). Somewhere in my optimistic (deluded) mind I think I can stay with Mr. G at the table, and I don’t have to worry that he’s holding a piece of cloth that is saturated with a potentially dangerous chemical.
Unfortunately, the next thing I hear is Older screeching “Mommy, the thing is stuck! Help, I’m stuck!”
When you know that your four-year-old child is sitting naked in the kitchen sink and that you have a disposal, hearing those words can cause you some alarm.
I go dashing in to check that he’s not in serious danger. Meanwhile, Mr. G disappears with the Clorox wipe. I can see that Older is not actually trapped in the sink disposal (he was exaggerating!? No!), so I quickly go back to find Mr. G. He is sticking the Clorox wipe in his eye.
I fix Mr. G up and go back to the kitchen to find out what Older’s crisis of the moment is. He has jammed the cover to the sink disposal in the hole, upside down, and he’s chest-high in water (don’t ask me how a very tall 4-year-old boy can cram himself into a kitchen sink, I suspect he’s quite possibly a freak of nature).
Normally I would let a unique challenge like this one wait until I have time to fix it, but it’s my kitchen sink in the middle of a day care day! So I run to the basement to grab something to pry it free with. When I come back up I can hear Younger and Mr. G having water play in the bathroom. Normally I would stop this catastrophe before it starts but right now I’m up to my elbows in red paint water, wrestling a drain cover with two screwdrivers.
Younger recently decided that he’s going to potty train himself, and decides it’s time to try out the new potty seat. I am delighted, and trying to keep an eye on him through the door. He’s like his big brother – he needs his “privacy” (like their father, but that’s another story. For me, “privacy” was a thing of the past as soon as I felt the first contraction).
I can see Younger positioning himself just right over the chair. It’s taken him a LONG time to even be willing to sit on it, and my mommy pride is welling up, watching my little darling boy try so hard. Still, I’m expecting to see an empty pot because that’s all he’s been able to accomplish so far. When he’s done, he drags me in to see the results. What I see is a puddle spreading across the floor. The bottom wasn’t on the potty seat!!
OK, lift Younger up and get him out of the bathroom while cheering madly because he’s just gone pee-pee on the potty for the first time ever, and screaming wildly (but on the inside) because there is a giant puddle of pee flowing across the bathroom floor. As I’m removing Younger from the situation (and trying not to let his pee-soaked feet touch my body), Mr. G climbs down from his stool, grabs his blankie, walks through the pee, and heads right for the living room rug.
I start mopping the bathroom and kitchen floors when I notice that Mr. G has decided to bring me my coffee. Now usually he just grabs it and happily dumps it on the floor, so this is a big improvement. I’m touched by his thoughtfulness. I give him credit for trying so hard, but cringe while I watch the coffee dribbling a little trail behind him.
I manage to finally get everyone de-peed, dressed, and in the same place at the same time. I put on a movie and try to catch my breath for a minute while three children fight for space on my lap. I feel a bit like I’m ready to cry and surely the end of the day can’t come soon enough. I glance at the clock to see if it’s time to get the baby out of the crib. It’s 9:38 AM.