Parents of young children speak of how their homes are constantly in a state of “controlled chaos.” I guess the controlled part means that the parents step in to discipline when the chaos puts people or property at risk, and that they’re running along behind the kids, putting away the messes they make as they go. Sometimes (yes, only sometimes), I feel less like I’m controlling the chaos and more like I’m the designated disaster cleanup crew.
Like this afternoon. We’d come inside after two hours of playing outside in the gorgeous fall sunshine, and Duplo was hungry. He climbed a chair to get to the table, and before he could do anything terrible, I snatched him up to put him in his high chair. Of course, on the way, he snagged a glass that was on the table and pushed it off, where it broke on the tile floor.
I smoothly (if I do say so myself) finished putting him in his high chair, got him a snack, and started working on sweeping up the broken glass. Lego wanted to come into the kitchen, probably to see if what I was doing was interesting, but I told him to stay out because the glass might hurt his feet. So of course, the most logical thing for him to do was to put my high-heeled boots on and come stomping in onto the glass. He simply did not understand (or was pretending not to) that there were no conditions on “stay out of the kitchen,” and that the order still stood regardless of what kind of footwear he had on.
Once I was finished sweeping, I decided that now might be a nice time to wash the floor too. I’d been meaning to do it for a couple of days but hadn’t gotten to it, and now I had my toddler occupied and away for a few minutes, plus I’d just swept. I planned to mop, but as soon as I mentioned I was going to mop, Lego got two washcloths out and told me one was for him and one for me.
So I got a bucket of soapy water and dipped my rag in. Lego did too. Pretty soon we were well on our way to a clean floor. Except for Duplo getting bored with his snack and Lego wanting to walk on the wet parts of the floor, all went well.
Afterwards, I decided to do what I’d been dreading all day: can the ripe tomatoes from our garden. Not that canning in and of itself is unpleasant, but it’s not really a job little ones can help with, and it takes a long time. It also makes a big mess. But it had to be done.
I figured Lego might be able to help me skin the tomatoes, so I helped him scoot a chair up to the counter in front of the bowl of cold water. Duplo tried to climb up onto the same chair, so I got him another one. I also opened a container with some cereal in it for him to munch on while we worked.
Instead, just as I put the tomatoes in the boiling water to scald, he poured the cereal on the counter and then spread it all over, onto his chair and the floor. Cereal rolled into every corner of the kitchen on my still-damp floor.
I had to get the tomatoes out of the water, so I did that, watching as he continued to spread the cereal everywhere, crushing some of it with his hands.
And then he climbed down from his chair and walked on it. Crunch crunch crunch.
A sound came out of my mouth that was a little like a siren. I’m not sure exactly where it came from, but it startled the kids enough to make them run out of the kitchen. I used the ottoman to block Duplo’s way back in, at least for a few seconds, and asked Lego to guard him.
I swept up the cereal and crumbs as quickly as I could, and then the kids were back. As I peeled the skin off the tomatoes, Duplo kept finding stray pieces of cereal on the counter and putting them into the water. Over and over, he’d put one in, I’d say no and take it out, and he’d put another one in. And over and over. Next it was a container lid. And the container to match. And a piece of paper.
And then he lost his chair privileges.
Is that the part where I controlled the chaos?
(I did get the tomatoes canned in the end. And nobody was even injured.)