Friday, May 31, 2013

own the mess

Tonight, I was tired. And frustrated. And overwhelmed. And a little pissed. The minute I got home from work, husband went (escaped) outside to mow the lawn, and I sat like a pathetic, sad lump with two children wanting my attention, wanting a lively response, and using more and more extreme ways to get it. I needed something interactive for them to do that would also get me engaged (even though I wanted desperately to lie down on the floor and stare at the ceiling)...and not a flashy screen, touch screen cop-out.
The house was an intimidating mess. Clothes and toys and toy related debris. Everyfuckingwhere.
Target: locked on.
I tried several attempts (polite requests degenerating into threats) to get my son to help me clean up. No dice. (When will I learn?)  And I could feel myself getting really pissed and Son could feel his manic success in getting a response.
Finally, I just started plowing all the shit, everywhere into one ginormous pile in the middle of the floor. Everything that had been pushed to the perimeter and the corners and under and on top of furniture. Then, after that satisfying exertion, I sat on a chair and calmly told Son that we had a pretty big mess here. We wouldn't be able to do anything fun together until we cleaned it up. Maybe he could think of some ideas of how we could work together to get it all put away. What could he tackle first? Say, stuffed animals?  And what should I tackle first? Blankets and pillows?
Next the big things with wheels.
Then the things that go in the play kitchen.
Then action figures (he stood them all up along the bay window).
Then cars (lined up along the ledge).
The final challenge was the contest: who could put the remaining miscellany into the toy tub the fastest. Of course, he won.
The other approach I've witnessed too many times to mention is to demand that Son pick it up by himself, yell and punish and get increasingly loud loud loud and angry, and get Son increasingly angry/sad/frantic until everything falls to shit and everyone feels wretched.
But this, among other things, completely misses the fact that it wasn't just my Son's mess. It was our mess. I played a role in it getting to where it was. I let night after night go by without setting limits or working with him to make choices and take responsibility and clean up. It became this daunting, scattered thing that no one could get a handle on and no one wanted to touch. So I piled it up. Got it all into view. And it became something that could be sorted and dismantled.
Tomorrow, I'll tackle the kitchen in a similar, though more glassware friendly fashion.
Maybe next, one of the other several overwhelming clusterfucks that I've assisted in creating.
And boom! There you have it: a metaphor for life.

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