Some weekend mornings you wake up and your Girl, who has been up since 5:45am adventuring around by herself, has gone and made it her morning’s mission to destroy your house.
She’s dumped out all the beads in the entry. Every paper cup from yesterday’s puppet project has been stabbed with a marker. There is a room where every plastic cup in your house has been filled to the brim with water and ice, and of course they are sitting in puddles of water. She’s peeled ten oranges halfway and then squeezed the juice out of the other half. She’s eaten an entire jar of honey. All of her shirts are now in the bathtub and her Care Bears are in the toilet (taking a bath, I suppose.) The power cord for her Kindle Fire has been ripped to shreds. She’s taken a scissors to her best jacket. There are six partially-eaten apples in the bathroom.
Last weekend, she made a fort “for the winter, mommy” that includes her winter coat, more water poured into bowls, and all of her shoes. She could not wait to show it to me.
Some weekend mornings, your absence has allowed your daughter’s brilliant mind to run free and create her vision in its completist form. The perfection of her fort was so clear to her– she gave me a full tour and an explanation of how this would be perfect if we were hibernating for the winter and look at the water that’s so we don’t get dehydrated, mommy. Even though she had strategically placed ice cubes all around the fort to simulate winter, and even though the mud from her shoes got all over the quilt I made in junior high, I got in the fort and hibernated with her. That’s just what you do.
You’re a great parent. You baby-proofed your house and then, every six months, baby-proofed another two vertical feet as she got bigger and started pulling up, and then walking, and then eating your chapstick that was on the bedside table. So you keep the markers above her reach and you also teach her how to use her stool to help at the kitchen counter. And then one day you realize she has used her stool to retrieve the fancy markers and has now written on the carpet. You have dutifully baby-proofed your house all these years but now you’re hiding your hand lotion and you’re unable to buy a new couch until she stops making holes in the furniture. Does that happen at 5? I sure fucking hope so.
Some mornings there’s chaos. And every good parent is trying their damndest to give their child the freedom they arrive on this earth demanding. And then other mornings when they destroy your house, we parents lose our shit and fuss around cleaning everything up, thinking “this is my life now.” (Maybe that’s just me). There is the despair and there is the cleaning up, and there is the wishing you could trust your 4 year old but then there’s the knowledge that, how ridiculous, she’s still a toddler! On the one hand you regret letting your child be unsupervised in the house for an hour. On the other hand, sleep. So you have despair and regret and you know, at some point, you’re going to have to find a way to get the permanent marker off the hard wood floors. And you get in the fort and just look at the light in that Girl’s eyes about the masterpiece she has created and you know that this time it’s not about the house. It’s about her.
There are some mornings that are like that. And then some mornings you wake up, like this morning today, and she has used her stool (and several kitchen towels) to set a table for breakfast, complete with namecards and invented spelling. Parenthood: the balance between joy and destruction.