I am going to share an incident that happened a couple of years ago that should register as quite familiar with any mother who is reading this.
It involves a significant mess and a somewhat timely clean-up.
You see, my daughter, at that age, was hell-bound and determined to exercise her developing independence and do things without motherly supervision.
Not that this has changed any but she is a bit more adept at asking for permission first before attempting most activities on her own.
At the time of this incident, she had reached an age where I didn’t feel the need to constantly have an eye on her – or lock up every non-child item in the house.
Not only was she developing her own sense of independence, but I was regaining some of mine as well.
Still, messes do happen and I learned a very important lesson that day:
It is Possible to Face Chaos Without Losing Your Shit
So that afternoon I was sitting at my computer while my daughter watched one of her shows in the living room. It was a quiet day with the only plan being that we were going to join friends later on for a Women’s March uptown.
As the time drew near to begin preparing for our outing, I went out to the living room to discover that my child had taken it upon herself to open a bottle of white nail polish.
She decided to paint her nails…and her legs…and her arms…and her belly…and her face.
I guess she had missed the whole point of it being NAIL polish.
My daughter had been acting very sensitive to my reactions as of late. This had caused me to tone down the way I approach certain – stressful – situations. My initial gasp and exclamation came because I thought for sure that she had unleashed that white devilry upon my couch.
(My couch has a washable cover, yes, but tearing it apart to clean it is a huge pain in my backside. Most of my exasperated reactions come from drips, drops and spills landing on my precious couch cover.)
I’m usually okay otherwise with spills and whatnots – things that can be relatively easy to clean. However, the thought of dealing with nail polish on my couch cover was almost too much to bear.
I was completely and totally read to lose my mind and cry and wail and curl up in the a corner with my fingers to my ears humming and trying to ignore the entire situation.
Thank the higher powers that there was not a drop of nail polish on the couch.
My nerves calmed and I took a deep breath.
I knew that yelling and getting angry was not in anyway going to convey the message I wished to communicate to my daughter about the importance of requesting adult assistance when attempting to paint one’s nails – it would only upset her and the lesson would be lost.
I simply informed her that we were going upstairs to wash it off and likely we would not be going for a walk that morning. I also had to remind her a few times that this was not funny and her actions did not deem her “silly”.
She stood patiently while I scrubbed her legs with rubbing alcohol to no avail. She cried when she saw how her skin was turning red.
It was in these moments that I reminded her that she made a big mess and this was the unfortunate process of cleaning up.
She soaked in the tub, the polish coming off much easier when I scrubbed and there were some more tears at the discomfort.
I again reminded her of the consequences of her actions.
Take a Deep Breath
At no point did I yell. I didn’t get angry. I took control of my emotional triggers (i.e., dealing with spills on my couch).
I simply took the steps I needed to take in order to remedy the situation. At the same time, I focused on trying to instill in my child the concept of action and consequence.
All told it only took about 20 minutes to clear her up.
Did she understand the lesson? I’m not sure. She was three, so it’s likely she is not going to carry what happened through until the next time she is tempted to give herself a mani-pedi.
However, I’m sure that any takeaway is more effective because I didn’t lose my nut and become a rage monster – like I would have in the past.
Keep calm and parent on, mamas.
If it’s not life-altering or earth-shattering then don’t let yourself give in to anger and insanity. Figure out what you have to do and get it done.
Focus on the lesson you want your child to learn- not on punishing them for what they did.
Oh, and we made it to the walk just in time.
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