Mess up fess up

A mess takes only moments to make

I’m a bad mom.  As I usually have to make dinner while I have the kids around, I generally put on a TV show to keep them occupied.  (No, this isn’t the bad mom part.)  Last night they were giggling a lot, and I was distracted because I was making a new recipe, so I didn’t check on them.  That was a big mistake.  Exhibit A shows the damage they did, in a few minutes of I’m sure what they thought was good, clean fun.  That pile, before dinner, was folded laundry.

I lost it.  If you have an infant, you lose it when your baby wakes you for the third time in three hours, screaming, and you have no idea why.  And you shout in your head, “Shut the BLEEP up,” while wishing you could put her outside to sleep, just for a few hours so you could think straight again.  Of course, instead, you probably pick up your baby in your stupor and rock her as your anger needle drops, because rationalization overcomes your frustration.  (She is, after all, a defenseless baby.)

But when your kids are a little older, and they have brains that work, and you’ve told them before not to play with folded laundry, the anger that wells up from direct disobedience in a fleeting moment can overwhelm you.  I would go so far as to say I can have an out-of-body experience.  This isn’t a defenseless child; this is someone who made a conscious decision to combat you, just because it was fun, or just to see what you would do in return.  It is an ex-haus-ting, often daily, battle.

But (always afterwards) I realize that’s not a good reason to lose it.  I yelled about how I’d asked her not to do that before, and how that meant I would have to re-fold it, and how I don’t have time to do that, and it’s inconsiderate and mean to do such a thing to your poor mother.  And what that means is that all last night and all this morning, Eliza kept saying, “Mommy, you’re not happy with me.  You yelled at me.  I’m sorry” in a way that indicates the hurt I put on her was far worse than the frustration of re-folding laundry.  I forgot about re-folding the laundry by this morning.  Eliza, however, couldn’t forget hurting me in such a way that caused me to react like that.

I hope that next time I can look at the laundry pile and laugh, because my kids had a blast making the mess.  After all, it’s laundry.  I should be thankful we have clothes to wear, and a working washer and dryer to clean them, not to mention my floor was mopped earlier in the day, so the clothes were still clean.  Next time, I hope I can bring myself to say, “Oh gosh, that’s going to take some time to clean up.  Can you help me, because it’s okay to make a mess as long as you clean it up,” which would turn the situation into a teaching moment.

I hope next time I can react in such a way that doesn’t make me feel like a bad mom.  I’m not going to beat myself up over it anymore, because one thing my kids are already teaching me is that their grace, like God’s, is new each day.  And that reminds me that I might have bad moments, but I’m a good mom.

Toddler chores: it’s not child labor

A lot of my parenting attitude comes from thinking that whether I do it now or later, I have to teach my children, well, almost everything.  So I think I’m a bit ambitious with things I think Eliza should be able to handle and sometimes I end up frustrated, having to remind myself how old she is.  However, I think 18 months is a good time to begin teaching kids a few ways to help out.  In fact, before she was 18 months, Eliza knew how to take her dirty diapers to the diaper pail and toss them in it properly.  When Zach was born, I could keep her busy with throwing out his diapers while I finished changing and redressing him.  Here are other things with which she already helps (and how I use these as teaching moments):

1) Dishes – Eliza unloads and loads our silverware.  Yes, she hands it to me to put it in the drawer, so it doesn’t actually help save me time, but it keeps her occupied while I get other things put away.  This is how I taught her what knives, spoons, and forks are, and how she’s learned what big and small are as well (big spoon, little spoon, for example).  She is now learning how to put away other items that go in lower cabinets, like plastic cutting boards.

2) Laundry – She throws dirty clothes into the hamper.  When I wash the laundry, she helps put clothes into the washer, move them from the washer to the dryer, and put them in a laundry basket for folding.  I’m now starting to include her on sorting whites, lights, darks and delicates, which gives us an opportunity to work on learning colors.

3) Tidying up – I don’t just sigh and pick up all of her toys at the end of the day, complaining about the mess.  She knows how to help and we sing a “clean up” song so it’s fun.  (Okay, maybe sometimes I sigh and do it myself, but at least she’s not averse to helping.)

4) Feeding Zach – Yes, he might be feeding himself with a spoon by the time she gets it down, but Eliza BEGS to help feed him, so she sits on my lap and gives it the old college try.  It doesn’t really help because it takes longer, but it does keep her occupied and he loves it.  Plus, she’s refining her motor skills.

5) Feeding the dog – She can’t do it alone just yet, but she enjoys scooping out the dog food and putting it in Abbey’s bowl.  This is great because it often spills, so she’s learning how to walk gingerly while carrying something that might spill.

6) Spills and messes – She likes to use sponges and paper towels, so whenever she spills something, or when I want to wipe down the dining room table, she helps.

I’m interested in knowing what ways your toddlers and pre-schoolers help you out.  I’m sure there are other things I could be teaching Eliza that I can get out of doing myself sooner rather than later, so thanks for any input!