There are days when I truly believe that I will go crazy. Snap like a twig. Like a dry, brittle, drought-stricken twig. Yesterday was one of those days.
The kids were all wound up from a weekend jam-packed with things going on. Grant’s birthday party was Friday night. They played with their friends all day on Saturday. I had a friend come over with her daughter on Saturday night. They had another birthday party Sunday morning. Grant played football that afternoon and then there was the more “friend” time after that. Constant activity which quickly led to constant mouthiness.
The neighborhood Preteen Male Syndicate (PMS) was meeting for another afternoon of hijinx-planning when I stepped out into the garage and could not believe what I saw. (Well, I can believe it. I just didn’t want to.) Total devastation. There were about four or five totes that usually held various odds and ends in them, contents strewn all over the garage. The large garbage bag full of packing peanuts that I save for shipments out of state was empty and the floor of the garage looked like January after a blizzard. A Garage Armageddon with ragged, dirty stuffed animals, various hotwheel tracks, shelving pieces, nerf guns and packing peanuts thrown every where. After spitting out some speech about the importance of respect and gratitude, I was able to get the boys to start cleaning up the mess. I stepped back inside for 10 seconds (I think Mia had stopped up a toilet or something) came back out to the garage to find the boys back on their skateboards/bikes/scooters with the garage completely uncleaned.
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Not on my watch buddy. I sent the non-resident offenders home, which lead to loud shrieking of how evil of a mother I am. Resident offenders were sent to their rooms. Groundings threatened, swear words shrieked and over-all loud nastiness. And I do mean LOUD! I’m sure the barbeque at the church down the street loved to hear what a good mother I am. I decided that everyone needed to calm down and had each child take a shower.
It was quiet for 3.5 minutes. I walked into the boys’ room and every piece of clothing that was in their dressers was on the floor. I walked into the bathroom. There were three toy dolphins, a few kitchen utensils, my (now empty) cotton-scented sugar scrub tube and a broken ceramic vase lying amid the goop of the now-freed sugar scrub on the bottom of the bathtub. There were three completely soaked towels on the floor. Two pairs of dirty boy underwear and five or six wet/dirty/stinky articles of clothing from the girl. Bright blue toothpaste (with sprinkles :)) smeared all over the sink and mirror.
I completely lost it. Loud voices. Sore throat. Slammed doors. Early bedtimes. It hadn’t even been an hour from our conversation about respect and watching out for other people’s things and just “not living like a total pig”. It was if they had never heard me.
At all. After a nice quiet morning (“Rise and Shine!”), I came back into the kitchen this morning to find two bowls of Fruit Loops spilled all over the table, the floor and the female child. (I had been outside picking up the dead half of a rabbit that was a gift from the German Shepard. Lovely.) (BTW, after an evening of searching, I still haven’t found the other half.)
Now I know children are messy. I am messy. If you’ve read any other entries in this blog, you know how much I hate to clean. Life is too short to be cleaning all of the time. Plus, when you’re working a 9+ hour day (factor in commute time) plus activities, plus errands, there really is only so much time in a day. I am perfectly fine with a certain level of messiness. A few toys on the floor? No problem. A board game left out overnight? No big deal. Dirty dishes still in the sink? They can wait a few hours.
But the levels of mess that these kids were committing were no where near normal childhood messes. They were epic, over-the-top, gratuitous messes. Unnecessary filth. Monstrous chaos.Who uses one of their mother’s high heel shoes to smash cereal on the counter top and then try to kill their brother with it? Who needs to take every article of dirty clothes out of the hamper and make a reading nook “nest?”
Worn out, I walked into work this morning desperate to find out a way to teach these children respect and to not lose my cool when dealing with them and the inevitable messes. And I remembered my dear, sweet cousin Margie. (She’s one of those Reynolds’ cousins I have talked about in the past.)
When Grant was about 18 months old, Grant had taken one of those bottles of diaper rash ointment and smeared it all over his body. Head to toe. He was like a little naked greased-up Casper the ghost. I tried washing him off, but do you realize that diaper rash ointment by design, was created to be waterproof? Freaking out and not knowing how to take care of the situation, I called up Margie. The first thing she asked me was, “So, did you take a picture?” Brilliant!
Taking the time to find the camera can break up any tension and turn what could be an explosive situation (sometimes literally) into a photo-op. And a lot of times that is what I really get mad about. No one ever witnesses the insanity of my life. Here I am in the house alone with these children, slowly going insane and with one or two clicks of the camera, I can have proof of what they are doing to me. See? I’m not going nuts. Someone shaved the dog. I have proof!
Armed with this little lightbulb, I now have a new approach to parenting. The kids will be doing a lot more picking up the house in the next few weeks. (Maybe if they see what a pain in the rear it is to clean it, they won’t be as apt to mess it up. Fingers crossed.) And I’ll be blogging a lot more. Some days it might only be pictures. And that’s okay. I just need a witness.