Today I woke up with an itch to clean the house.
Maybe it’s because I’ve kind of neglected my house over the past few weeks.
Maybe it’s because today is the first day of winter school break, I have no work and I have no activities planned for the kids today.
So, when I woke up, I straight away started to pick up and clean up.
Call me crazy, but that’s what I was doing at 6 AM.
And my two youngest children who were watching me got excited to join in.
(Because who said kids know how to sleep past 6 AM when it’s vacation? And who said kids don’t like to clean the house during their winter break from school?)
“Can we help?” they screamed.
“Uh, sure,” take these cloths and start dusting.
And off they went.
They dusted my bedroom.
They dusted the dining room.
They washed down the front of the refrigerator and the pantry closet.
“What next?” they asked eagerly.
“Uh, your room?” I suggested.
“Why don’t you check out the status of your room? Pick up the clothes off of the floor. Make your beds. You know, just clean up.”
And, off they went.
Two eager beavers.
It was a wonderful sight to see.
Because it doesn’t happen too often.
As I went to wash the dishes, I sung some morning prayers to myself and reminded myself how blessed I am.
I finished the dishes and called the kids over for breakfast.
When they finished eating, I told them to get dressed and I would take them to the playground.
When I cleaned up the breakfast table and did the dishes again (I do the dishes approximately 15 times a day), one of my children called from his room because he needed some help getting dressed.
“Sure, here I come,” I said with a hop and skip.
I looked at my 4-year-old son who was only half dressed.
“How can I help you?”
And then I looked at the floor to ceiling custom-made closet in their bedroom.
The beige one.
The new one.
“What is this?” I screamed.
My youngest pointed to my 3rd child and said blamingly, “He told me to do it.”
“What?” I asked, looking at my 3rd child.
“Why would you tell him to color on your closet?”
“Because the closet was clean,” he responded slowly and innocently.
“Clean? What are you talking about?” I was dumbstruck.
“Well,” he continued, “I couldn’t clean the front of the closet because it was already clean. So, we put crayon on it so that we could clean it up.”
I looked at him incredulously.
Did I just hear what I thought I heard?
Is this kid for real?
Furious, I yelled, “Well, clean it up! We are not leaving this house until all of that red is off!” and stormed out of their room.
What was he thinking?
Why would he do that?
And in that moment, I had a flashback.
Going back to about 1980 when I was about seven years old.
When my younger brother and I colored on the white walls of the living room in the house I grew up.
Lots of them.
(Though, I don’t think we did it because the walls were looking too clean. I think I told him to join me because the walls were looking too plain to me. They needed a bit of decorating for my taste.)
Anyway, I won’t ever forget that.
Because I remember getting yelled at.
And not quite understanding what I did that was so terrible.
And I also remember having to clean it up.
Back to here.
Stuck on anger with my son.
And I didn’t want to stay stuck on anger with him.
So, I processed.
S. Stop. I stopped and took a deep breath.
T. Tell. I was stuck on anger. I felt it in my face.
U. Uncover. I believed that my kids should know by this age (4 and 7) that coloring on the walls is not acceptable and it’s not an option.
C. Consider. I considered that my son really had no bad intentions. I considered that, as they were in the process of coloring, my son really believed he would be able to remove it easily with his rag, just as he was successful in cleaning up the rest of the house. I considered that they were just being creative, and creativity is something I honor and encourage in my kids. I considered that my sons felt badly and wrong for what they did. I considered, “What’s really the big deal? It’s just a closet.”
I went back into his room and witnessed the two boys working quite hard at getting that color off.
They were giggling while they worked.
My frown turned into a smile.
I told my sons that I was sorry that I yelled at them.
I told them I just reacted automatically in the moment.
And I reminded them we only color on paper, not furniture.
K. OK. I got stuck on anger and it’s ok. Processing through it helped me notice how I react automatically sometimes and it created space for an apology that I needed to say and that my kids needed to hear.
It also helped remind me that my kids and I don’t always think alike.