as a parent, sometimes it’s hard to bite your tongue and sit idly by as your toddler makes a huge, destructive mess. it wouldn’t be so hard maybe, if you weren’t the one to have to clean it up always. being able to relax and breathe through their messes is one thing you have to begin doing as soon as they are born. it begins with their poop and barf. it seems like the poop flows from their butts like a fountain of youth for the first few months. they invariably let loose every time you put them in something new, it flows out the sides of the diaper, all up their back, all over you, your furniture, everything. your shirt always smells like regurgitated milk. then, it just progresses from there. it moves on to their food, their toys, and pretty much every facet of their existence is in some way marked by messes and chaos. people look at you like, “how do you live like that?” but you learn to ignore these looks, and you learn to relax, even if you are not a very relaxed person.
case in point, the other day, we took a family outing to kroger (we are just one exciting family). normally, i don’t let ruth out of the cart, as i’ve said before, because she tends to disappear pretty quickly. however, when greg is there, too, she knows she can get out. a three year old in a grocery store can be a very scary thing. all that energy. all those neatly stacked lines of goods. not a good combo. that’s why we had to think quick and let her help us to shop.
and it was great. toddlers want to be big, and anything they can do that they feel enhances their status as a grown person, you can usually somehow use to your advantage to get them to help you. now, keep in mind, this is three year old help, which is sometimes less helpful than none at all, and usually, there is some type of large mess to clean up afterward.
like i said, ruth got into it. “ruth, we need peppers. let dad pick you up and you pick out three.” then, she was on to the apples, then the bananas, which all got flopped over into the cart. now, i’m not too much of an anal person, i don’t think. but i usually organize my shopping cart pretty well. that is to say, all the produce in one area, all the canned goods in another, and all of the refrigerated and frozen stuff together to keep each other cold, and of course, the golden rule, anything soft or squish-able on top of anything hard. ruth is clearly oblivious to this and just chucked everything in together. midway through the trip, and i could barely look into the cart without wincing. there were the bananas under the canned goods. the bread crunched up in the corner. and ruth kept coming back with more to toss on top, asking, “what else do we need?”
it was one of those times, when you have to say to yourself, “so what about the bananas? look at how much fun she’s having. and she’s learning about food and stuff and feeling all responsible and grown-up. what’s a few squished bananas compared with a feeling of accomplishment and pride?” some things in life are better than a loaf of nicely-shaped bread, undented canned goods, unbruised produce.