I made a horrible mistake a few nights ago. I was cranky and frustrated and Georgia and I had been going at it all day about a variety of things. We're so much alike about so many things and it's an explosive combination sometimes. Not atypical for a mom and a daughter, I know, but nonetheless it leaves me feeling guilty sometimes.
Thoughts of, "I should have said it like this, " "I shouldn't have used that tone," "I wish I would have handled that differently," and "I needed to walk away for a few minutes before reacting and I didn't," can linger for a long time. And I know--there's a camp out there that says, "Don't let mom guilt get to you." Yeah, well…..sometimes I think that camp is a load of garbage and a product of the self-esteem generation. Because you know what? I'm a human
mom…..that makes a lot of mistakes given my species. And
every once in a while
a lot of times I handle things the wrong way because I'm still learning and I think it's okay to feel bad about doing something wrong……so you can work not to repeat the mistake over and over.
So, to bring it back--the other night I made a horrible mistake.
Georgia has this space behind a chair in our front room that she's deemed her secret hiding spot. It's not secretive by any means but it's her place, she loves to go back there and play on the iPad or read a book or set up little scenes for her dolls and animals. She's even taped pictures she likes on the back of the chair to decorate her spot. It's cute. We never really make her move stuff clean it up back there--it's not hurting anything, so it's hers.
Additionally, Georgia likes to "make books." We're talking stapled together construction paper, blank books I get her from the $1 bin at Target, even tied together leaves; this girl can make a book out of toilet paper if given the green light. So on this fateful night she'd been working on some books. I was making dinner and carrying on a casual, albeit distracted conversation with her because Crosby was shrieking and missile launching toys onto the ground from his high chair. She announced out of the blue, "I'm going to keep all of my books behind the chair in my secret space!"
"No you're not, " I responded, a little snappily.
"Because, Georgia--there is enough behind that chair for now." I was huffing my response--I know I was.
"But they're special to me and I want to keep them safe."
"They're safe right where they are."
Crosby starts to cry.
"They're my books and I'll put them there if I want to."
Crosby is really ramping it up.
"If you don't let me put my books back there then I'll NEVER put anything back there again and my whole secret space will be ruined." (Using the word never in combination with something seemingly dire is a commonly employed strategy of Georgia's.)
"Fine Georgia. Listen--we'll have to talk about this later. I need to finish getting dinner ready and Crosby needs to eat."
"I'm doing it. I'm putting them back there."
"Georgia. Stop it. Listen to me. I said no. I don't want any more crap back there." I'm pretty sure I yelled this.
Ugh. But I was mad and wasn't thinking straight……so……
"Stuff that you don't need, stuff that is junk."
And then she was crushed. She stopped talking back. She started to cry a little.
"You think the books I make are junk? I work really hard on those."
"Wait, you're talking about the books you make?"
"Yes," she whispered through a few tears.
"I thought you were talking about all the books in your room, actual books, from your bookshelf."
"My books are actual books."
I can't get this right….for the love.
And she got sadder, and Crosby got louder, and I felt worse, and I tried to smooth it over with her and told her I was sorry and I shouldn't have lost my temper and I should have asked her more questions about what she meant…..but I didn't….and I was wrong.
We talked about it more after Crosby went to bed, over ice-cream sandwiches on the front porch. I apologized again, and I cried a little bit because I felt really bad, and she hugged me like she always does and told me she didn't have to keep stuff behind that chair anymore if I didn't want her to, and that she was sorry for talking back. I assured her that I wanted her to keep her secret place in tact and I wanted her books back there. She showed all of them to me that she was planning on putting back there. And thankfully, she spent some time in her secret hiding spot rearranging things and making room for her books--no plans to vacate the property.
But it got me thinking--all these little footprints that our kids leave around our house that are specifically theirs….markings that will go away as they get older and be replaced by something else, possibly something not so endearing……I don't want to rush those away--I want to track them, follow them, memorize them. I'm not talking about fingerprints on door frames, or ripped up Kleenex all over bedrooms, or a sticky cup holder in the car from a left over slushie, or a moldy piece of string cheese in a couch cushion, or other bits of evidence that you don't use a vacuum or a Clorox wipe.
I'm talking about…..
word walls on the plate rail of the front room for weeks at a time,
and pictures hanging on my bathroom mirror,
and forts that last days in the play room,
and art tables in the kitchen overflowing with 'genius at work,'
animal menageries on bathroom counters (that you better not clean underneath without supervision).
I think it's so easy to want to brush these signs-of-life and fun and developing minds away in our haste to clean up, straighten out, and feel that calm that, for many of us, comes when things feel in order. But….I think we can find an order in the 'footprints' our kids leave behind, in the whisperings that fill our house that a curious and amazing little six year old lives here.
These little glimpses into our kids hearts and minds--that speak to the wonder and imagination of child-hood disappear so fast, I don't want to shuffle my feet over those footprints, making them invisible. I want to hold on to them and appreciate them.
Even on days when I'm not at my best. Even when I mistake them for crap and can't appreciate the art that they are I want something to remind me to stop, just stop…...
What are you 'tracking' today? All of our kids leave different footprints…..make sure you take note of them.