For an embarrassingly long period of time--at least months, plural--I have been putting off helping our oldest go through her belongings and determine what items she actually uses and is interested in keeping.
It was an involved project, so I was camped out in her room with her, trying to not make the cranky toddler aware that I was in there so I could continue working with her until it was all done.
At some point during the project, she left to grab a snack and when she came back she reported to me that her brother had spilled some salsa. Not wanting to lose momentum, I chalked it up to something I'd get to when I went downstairs because I figured it was probably from a small bowl, my husband often pours himself some and doesn't finish it and puts the bowl back into the fridge.
Boy was I wrong. It was an almost brand new giant container that cracked when it hit the floor and made a huge mess!
My husband was actually the one to discover it. After the kids went to bed, he went into detail about the scene he'd found.
Our 6-year-old son had knocked the container down while trying to pull out the milk to get himself a drink. When my husband found him, he was kneeling in the doorway of the open fridge, covered in salsa, resting his head on the shelf in front him. He'd been there long enough that the smaller splatters of salsa had started drying up.
I teared up to picture our sweet son like that, immediately wracked with guilt that I hadn't at least asked our daughter for more information when she'd told me, to say nothing that I hadn't bothered to go check on him myself. It was all I could do to not immediately march myself into where he was sleeping and hold him.
I sat him down to talk about it, and when I asked he said that he didn't come get me because the mess was so big he didn't know where to step.
But I knew there was probably another reason that his sweet heart wasn't articulating to me.
I get cross about messes. And it's not to say that I'm not allowed to be frustrated, but I'm not allowed to make them feel bad for having normal developmental limitations that often lead to messes.
I told him that I wanted him to call out to me if he needed my help like that again. Even if he just needed my help cleaning up a mess, to always, always, always ask me for help when he needed me. I told him that I don't really like messes, but that I LOVE being a mother, and I really love being HIS mother. And part of my job as his mother to help him clean up messes so that he can learn how to do it himself.
Because I realized as I was sitting there with my 6-year-old, that I WANT my children to call out to me when they find themselves in a mess that they don't know how to get themselves out of. Today it was a container of spilled salsa, but what about 10 years from now when the situation is dangerous? I WANT him to call me and have me come help him get to safety.
I will ALWAYS want that. I would be devastated for any of our children to come to harm because they didn't think to call me. Especially if they didn't think that because they were worried that I would be mad.
So, I need to be better about how I respond to messes. I need to make that investment now over little messes that are easy to clean up so that I have already forged a relationship of trust with them when the messes are bigger and more complicated and have much more significant consequences.
Not to mention, we're replacing our floors with all hard surfaces downstairs next week--messes are so much easier to clean up off wood than carpet, and that will make encountering them as well as teaching children how to clean them exponentially easier.
- Ashley, a Colorado Baby Insider