Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The myth of parental control

You know those moments when you're feeling confident, seeing connections being made on little faces and are rewarded with a beautiful smile? Those moments when you say “I can do this! And why in the world did I think raising triplets and dealing with developmental delays was so hard?” Then you walk out of the bathroom holding the hand of a clean toddler whose teeth are freshly brushed only to discover another 3-year-old also had a discovery of her own, which left a trail of your morning coffee all along the kitchen floor, dripping down the counters through every crack and crevice? 

And there she is looking out the window, cup still in hand. It’s then you realize, as you are cleaning the “thank God it was already cold” coffee up on your hands and knees with paper towel because the mop is just too far away to grab, that not only does your floor need a better soap than coffee, but you also need a 24-hour maid. 

Then the next realization comes, the one that again admits defeat and says, parental control and 3-year-olds don’t even belong in the same sentence. At that point you clearly understand that the only parents who believe in parental control are those who HAD 3 year olds... emphasis on HAD... like maybe 3 or 4 years ago or 3 or 4 decades ago, and have forgotten reality. Or, maybe they never had 3-year-olds at all, perhaps their children miraculously went from innocent, delightful cooing baby to adorable pre-schooler in one fell swoop, skipping toddlerhood altogether. (I don't know what pill they gave their kids, but I might pay big money for one to make that happen. Of course, I probably couldn't afford it anyway since I'd have to buy it bulk to provide to the multiples crew that roams this house.)
30 seconds alone with a purple marker

It reminds me of the mom who went to the bathroom, leaving her 3-year-old and 1-1/2 year old to fend for themselves for about 5 minutes apparently much too close to a 5 lb bag of flour. I know many people believe this particular video was staged, and I won’t comment on that, but I do know what my own Sunshine triplet did with a simple purple marker just during the time I typed in “3 year old flour mess” into youtube to find the video.

Perhaps the naysayers and disbelievers have never met my Angel triplet, or any strong-willed toddler, or any exploring toddler for that matter. You see, my own mother has a story that involves flour and herself at about 2 or 3 years old. Back in the 1930s in a farming community of northern Wisconsin, my grandmother bought flour in bulk (20 lb bags) and kept the bag in her bedroom closet because she didn't have room in her kitchen. One day, my mother, little Jeanie, was playing in her mom and dad's bedroom. Can you tell where this is going? Little Jeanie had created a whole town with hills, roads, a school, a church. The building medium? Lovely white flour, found magically within reach in the closet. Thankfully she didn't think to mix it with water. It's a story I've heard for years.

These moments happen every single day here. It keeps me humble. It keeps me grateful that I don’t have to be perfect, and that I happen to believe progress is actually made in our human weakness, thank you Jesus. But I won’t say it’s not frustrating. Thankfully I have Tripped Up Daddy who knows how the chaos can be debilitating and will take 10 minutes before leaving for work to help clean up a mess here and there, just to make my day easier. 

Then there’s posts like Let's Stop with the Mom Guilt by The Happiest Mom Meagan Francis that also reminds me to ditch the negativity and frustration to the curb (as far as this pastor’s daughter and former Catholic organization employee can actually do).

In any event, I do understand that someday I will have parental control over my 3-year-olds. You know, about 3 or 4 decades AFTER they’re through the 3-year-old stage, when I have managed to remember life a little differently.