It rained here today. I was grateful because our car needed a good external rinse to get the chalk off. Chalk? Why chalk, you might ask? Well, it was a slight misunderstanding, but Seancito decorated our car with chalk designs a couple weeks ago, and we've been without rain (or the car's been in the garage) so there's been no opportunity for a rinse. Did either Tom or I try to rinse it off ourselves after we realized he'd chalked the car? No. Why would we do something like that? A couple weeks ago, he'd taken sidewalk chalk to his tricycle. I think the misunderstanding occurred somewhere in here:
Sean: Hey, look, Dada, I colored my bike!
Tom: (feigning a level of excitement greater than he actually felt) Oh, nice, buddy! Keep up the good work.
It was only later, when we got the family together to go somewhere that I saw the chalk designs all over the car. We'd been chalked. Tom assured me that he and Sean had a little discussion about it; discussing how chalk is not the best thing to put on the car. Now weeks later, we still have the chalk marks strewn on all four doors, rearview mirrors, and bumper. The rain today, though, took care of it.
Life with our kids is sprinkled with slight misunderstandings. For example, as I was cleaning Audrey's poopy diaper today, she kicked me in the face. Probably not on purpose (because I don't think her aim is that advanced yet), but it stung all the same. It was a slight misunderstanding on her part, and I wanted to elucidate this for her. Had I not bit my tongue, and if she could reason like an adult, my monologue to her would go something like this:
Audrey, thank you for that heel to the face, but I want to take a moment and make clear: I am not doing this to torture you. Given the quick onset of your leprosy (aka hand, foot, and mouth virus), I'm sure it's unpleasant for me to hold your feet and ankles while wiping your bottom. However, it's the only way to keep your blistery, pussing, and oozing limbs away from the diarrhea that just exploded from your ass: an ASSplosion, as your Aunt Susie would say. Don't get me wrong, I'd rather see the diarrhea than witness your constipation, as we do on most normal weeks, but I don't relish the idea of cleaning it up. Frankly, it makes me gag almost every time I have to do it. But do you know why I grab those oozing ankles and throw them nearly over your head? So that I can keep you hygienically clean. Do I want to have my fingers in your shit? No. NO I DO NOT. But that's not a choice I get to make. In fact, it's a choice that's made for me in the fine print at the hospital when they agree to let us take you home. We must clean your dirty, dirty bottom. Multiple times... a day. And this will go on for the next 2-3 years (God willing, no longer than that!), and then we'll get to fight and argue about potty training. Until that time, sweet girl who just kicked me in the face, I am forced to clean your butt. So sorry it interferes with your idea of a good time. That makes two of us.
Another misunderstanding occurred this morning while trying to get out the door. Having run a leper colony for a couple days now, I could feel myself getting itchy to get outside. Yet I was having a hard time thinking of any places we could go where I wouldn't infect small children with SARS. So I settled on the idea of driving to the downtown library (one of my favorite spots in the cities), and once there I would confine Audrey to her stroller. Then the only people she would touch would be me and Seancito, whom she has infected already and we still are healthy. So as we got ready to go, I asked Sean to put on his sandals himself. He quickly ran to get them and came back 2.5 minutes later with his sandals on. AND on the wrong feet.
me: Hey, nice job, buddy. I think those are on the wrong feet, though.
Seancito: No they're not.
me: I'm pretty sure they are.
Seancito. I like them this way. Can I wear them this way?
me: You can, but...
And this sealed it. He wore them on the wrong feet the whole morning. Is there anything wrong with this? I don't think so. Did it help him fall in the parking lot and scrape his knee? Probably. Natural consequences, right?
Last week I told Sean he could go out and play with the neighbors, if they were home and outside. Living in the suburbs in Minnesota, we've become very comfortable letting Sean run between houses. It's a good, safe feeling. However, being lax has its downsides. One of them being this misunderstanding: Sean takes off running towards the neighbors' yard. Our houses butt up to each other and we don't have a fence between us, so the kids can roam freely. I go to check on Audrey for a minute and when I return to see if he's in their backyard or ours, he's gone. I don't panic right away, because I think he might be around the side of our house. I head out to the backyard to search for him. I call for him repeatedly, and he doesn't answer. I'm just starting to get worried, and then I think, "maybe he's at our neighbors' house." so I walk in the direction of their backyard. Just as I get to their lawn, I see Sean running from the front of their house back into their backyard, carrying a large toy. He's struggling to both carry it and run at the same time.
me: What are you doing? Where have you been?
Sean: I was just getting this toy.
With that he plops it down in the middle of their backyard, exhausted.
me: Where did you get this from?
Sean: Oh. From the garage.
I walk along the side of their house and into their front yard, and I see that their garage door is open, and Sean has indeed picked a choice toy. I return to their backyard, storming.
me: First of all, that toy goes back in the garage right now. Second of all, you can not just run off like that without telling me.
Sean: (horrified) NOOOOOOOO, but I want to play with this toy! I want to play at Greta's house!
me: Sean, it doesn't look like they're home, and you've taken a toy without asking. You need to go put it back in the garage and then come back to our house.
Sean: NOOOOO - you said I could play at Greta's! It's not fair!!
You're right! It's not fair.! It's not fair that this was all a misunderstanding in the first place. I said you could go out and see if Greta's home to play, but I did NOT, in fact, tell you it was okay to come take their toys and play in their backyard when they're not home!
me: The toy goes back, and then you come home. I will give you one more chance to do it yourself, and then I'll take it, carry you home, and you're in big trouble.
It's this last bit that gets him. He puts the toy back in the garage and returns home with me while crying and protesting. Just a slight misunderstanding.
I've heard of some other misunderstandings recently that have nothing to do with my immediate family. 1) My cousin had a baby this past weekend. From their 20 week ultrasound they were expecting a girl. However, at birth they welcomed a beautiful baby BOY! Slightly misunderstood ultrasound images, I'd say. 2) A woman parked her car in a parking lot and went into a store (this is a true story, but I'm not relaying names or places to protect the innocent... or guilty... as the case may be). When she came back out, she saw her car (an old jalopy) had side-swiped another vehicle parked across the way from where she had parked hers. The vehicle that was hit was a very nice Jaguar.
Witness #1: Is that your car?
Witness #1: Did you forget to put on the emergency brake?
I'm sure when the woman went to explain what had happened to the Jaguar-owner, he or she would see it all as a slight misunderstanding. Thankfully, in this life, most of my misunderstandings are comical at best and annoying at worst. My children provide me with ample opportunities to clarify what I want from them. Though there are times when I want to bang my head against a wall because I'm done explaining myself, I also savor those moments when I can go into a deeper explanation of why something is the way it is. There are times that Seancito's misunderstanding opens the door to a really great conversation. This has certainly been the case as we talk about my Aunt Jeanne dying. It's also been true as we've discussed the presence of God in the world. On a more mundane note, we've had conversations about how airplanes fly, and why the backside of his pillow is cold and not warm. They recently knocked down a house in our neighborhood and this has provided hours of observation, entertainment, and explanations. Many conversations offer moments that are profound, sweet, and simple. Other moments are hard to explain but it's well worth the struggle. All in all, they are moments that develop my relationships with my kids, and I'm grateful for them. Even when some moments can drive me batty.
Yesterday Sean had initiated his own need to go to the bathroom, which I love. I applauded him on his self-awareness and sent him off to the bathroom alone. 20 seconds later I hear crying and whimpering coming from the bathroom. Having trained myself to not respond to every single cry and whimper, I let it go on for a couple minutes. It sounded to me more contrived than real, so I continued bringing up loads of laundry from the basement and checking on Audrey. The whimpering continued, and I felt myself going crazy. Finally, breaking my own silent rule of ignoring him, I caved.
me: (stifling my annoyance) Sean, are you doing okay in there?
Sean: (mild whimpering) Nooooo....
me: What's going on?
Sean: (still whimpering) I fell all the way in the toilet!
And I decided to go in the bathroom.When I got there, the back of his shirt was wet and so were his shorts (how did THAT happen?) with toilet water. Bleh.
me: How did this happen?
Sean: (beginning a fake cry) I forgot to put on my seat!
He has a smaller seat that fits flush on the top of the toilet, thus allowing him to sit, protect the bathroom from errant penis spraying, and keeping him from - you guessed it! - falling in the toilet.
me: Why didn't you put on your seat??
Sean: (weakly) I'm not sure...
It was then that I noticed the roll of toilet paper. It appeared as though someone had unrolled it and then rolled it back up.
me: What's going on with this toilet paper? Did you do this?
me: How did it get this way?
Sean: I'm not sure.
me: Sean. Did you unroll the toilet paper and then roll it back up again.
Ooookay. As we were relaying this story to Tom later that night at dinner, we all had enough distance from it that I was no longer annoyed. Coining a phrase that I've been using around the house recently, Tom described the whole situation as a "hot mess." Not wanting there to be any misunderstanding of what transpired, Seancito corrected him.
Sean: Actually, Dada, it was a wet mess.
And then everything was clear.