It happened again. Not a day goes by when the floor of the tv room is spared an encounter with food. Yesterday, it was almost an entire container of French vanilla yogurt. Today a full cup of milk. There are usually a bunch of crumbs to accompany the liquid mess.
Granted, I have a two-year old who cannot yet be expected to be as tidy and neat as her dear great-grandmother in Florida. But this is my 6-year (almost 7) old’s doing. The coffee table that the girls use as their arts & crafts desk is full of stuff (I am at a loss for a more descriptive word here, unless I go down the vulgarities path-of-no-return), so there’s no room for the food.
Inevitably, I lose my cool when this happens. Because deep down inside, I fear it’s my fault. But my scapegoat is at the ready: Chloe stands there, as still as a statue (or maybe she’s just plain lazy). Isn’t she old enough to take responsibility for her negligence? My exasperation (one of our favorite words, thanks to Beverly Cleary’s
” books) increases exponentially as I count the number of paper towels I need to clean up the mess. Chloe’s still standing there through all of this. No help whatsoever.
I raise my voice. Chloe starts to yell, “You’re mean, Mommy. Why are you always mad at me (in a very age-appropriate bit of exaggeration)?” I huff and puff my way back to the garbage pail in the kitchen with the wet towels. I then warn that I won’t allow eating or drinking in that room again. And that if she’s incapable of keeping the table free of junk, then I’ll throw it all out (how self-defeating would that be, since I bought most of it for her).
Yes, episodes like the one described above do wonders for my innate passive-aggressive streak. The thing is, although Chloe isn’t old enough to clean up after herself (how convenient), she’s smart as a tack when it comes to picking up on this lovely psychological trait of mine.
And, come the next morning, she’s eating in the room again (so much for empty threats). But this time, I’ve significantly decreased the odds of minor catastrophe striking. I have paper towels at the ready. The cup is less than half-full with milk. I serve waffles instead of toast to lessen the chance of crumbs. The table is free of stuff, at least for now. And there’s a huge tarp covering the floor – albeit whose purpose is simply for efficient child food clean-up, not for the disposal of dead bodies.
P.S. I actually can’t find a photo of an “angry” Chloe to serve the purposes of my story (you see, she really is happy most of the time, at least when I haven’t exasperated her), but the one I posted above tickles my funnybone.