Right now … on this Saturday night …
My children are upstairs bickering through their responsibilities of cleaning their room. I hear them scream. I hear them interrupt each other. I hear feet stomp down the hall. “Mom!” It is Reece, my toddler. She says, “I not want Mel ….” And the rest of her words are hard to understand. She’s upset with her sister. She comes down the stairs to give me a full report.
She wears a butterfly costume. The costume tells me that my daughters aren’t just picking up their room, they are playing, too.
She forgets about her sister and sits next to Archer, our puppy, who has been quietly resting at my feet. Archer can’t help himself. He starts chewing on the tutu portion of her costume. He thinks it’s a lovely toy.
“No,” she says. “No.” She stands to get away from him. I send her out with the apple juice she wanted. She goes back upstairs.
I hide in the kitchen. And write this post. I don’t care to get involved with any of them, right now.
Right now …
Their room is a source of stress. I cannot breathe or function properly as a parent when instead of floor, I see toys, posters, markers, when I see birthday gifts and clean clothes strewn carelessly, and nothing, at all, seems to be in its place. The space becomes a ginormous to-do list of sorting and classifying and putting items in containers. And those containers I know will be overturned in the seconds I leave the room.
When my daughters settle in to pick up all the trinkets and gifts and stuffed animals that fill their cabinets and closet, it takes them hours to put things away in a manner that at first appears to be neat and organized. They have developed their own games and tricks they play to team up and work together. If I inspect their work, I find they don’t do the sorting and classifying and re-setting I want them to do, but they do create a sense of tidiness that is manageable.
It is enough that I can at least co-exist in their room without hyperventilating.
Reece and Melisandra have descended the stairs. They must think they are done.
Melisandra screams. “Reeeccce!” She comes to the doorway of the kitchen to show me a silver wrapper. “Mom! She ate my Airhead.” I have never had this candy, but I can smell the sugar and the berry flavoring as she waves it in my face. “I was looking forward to eating that.”
Reece is a constant scavenger of all things candy. She finds it hidden in cupboards. She digs in her sisters’ stash and feasts, leaving a trail of wrappers as evidence. While I know Melisandra has every reason to be upset, I don’t understand why she left her candy in a place where Reece could get to it. Did we not learn anything the last seventy times she did this?
Melisandra says to Reece, “You’re going to have to take your birthday money and buy me another one.” She is in the other room, towering over her little sister, stomping her foot to emphasize her demands.
“No. I don’t buy it. Mommy does.”
“Mommy doesn’t need to buy me anything. You do.”
Reece comes to the kitchen. She looks up at me. “Mommy, you need to get Mel Airhead.” She says it in a tone that sounds sincere as if she’s being helpful; she wants to solve this problem for Melisandra. She doesn’t think to apologize or stop taking her sisters’ treats.
Over the baby monitor, I hear my six-year-old Corrigan alone in her room. “Why?” she says. She cries a little. “Why? Why? Why?”
I’ve sent Melisandra up to check on her, but according to Melisandra, nothing’s wrong. She gets back to her show on Netflix.
Now I hear Corrigan say, “I have to clean up this whole closet by myself.” She’s talking to Reece who has gone upstairs to see why her sister cries. I bet Melisandra thinks she’s delegated room cleaning responsibilities properly–and Corrigan got the raw deal. Corrigan’s feeling overwhelmed, too.
It seems their job isn’t done, after all. Time to leave my hiding spot and call shenanigans. Time to get back to the mess.
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