I’m sick today. I’ve actually had this cold for over two weeks, but haven’t wanted to reschedule the many appointments on our calendar, so I’ve been pushing through. (I haven’t been able to muster a good attitude about pushing through, but I’ve set my jaw and borne it.) Today my cold had gotten bad enough (my whole head and neck aching and throbbing) that I simply had to rest. This morning I put Hazel in her swing and turned on the T.V. for Rose and Henry, crossing my fingers that they wouldn’t wreak too much havoc while I went back to bed.
When I got up there were fresh crayon marks all over the kitchen counter, and Henry showed me crayon wrappers he was wearing on his fingers like puppets.
When they were little, Mabel and Isaac very rarely drew on walls, but they were better supervised than Rose and Henry, and my home was more child-proofed. Now my older kids leave markers, crayons, pens, and pencils all over, and both Rose and Henry, but especially Henry, like to try them out on every available surface. When I catch Henry in the act, he looks up at me with his doe eyes, says, “Sowwee, Mommy. I kidding,” — and goes back to scribbling on my couch with a ball point pen.
So, seeing Henry with his crayon-wrapper puppets, I had visions of crayon all over the new paint in what will be the girls’ new bedroom, and asked, “Where did you draw?” He was naive enough to answer me: “Rosie’s room.” (My good luck: that’s the girls’ old bedroom, which has already suffered an onslaught of wall-drawing.) Following him in, I saw a large pencil scribble on one wall, and the white-painted window seat elaborately decorated in pencil and various colors of crayon.
I spanked him. In nearly 12 years of parenting, it was my first deliberate act of spanking — one swift, firm slap to his diaper-cushioned behind, accompanied by a repeat of the edict, “WE DO NOT DRAW ON WALLS. ONLY ON PAPER.” Then I put him in his crib for a time-out while I went to get a Magic Eraser sponge.
The swat to his behind made him cry, but the time-out just made him mad. He even figured out how to get out of his crib, (since the furniture in there is all pushed into the center of the room right now, creating new escape options.) I put him back in for a couple more minutes.
Then I had him use the Magic Eraser to clean the window seat and wall. It turns out that an almost-three-year-old capable of elaborate wall drawings is also capable of cleaning them off with the right tool. He cleaned most of the windowsill on his own, and, when he wanted to give up on the wall and have me do it, I told him “Scrub up and down like this,” and he happily took my advice. While he next scrubbed the kitchen counter, he sang, “Uppidown, uppidown.” I’m afraid he was having way too much fun.
This story has a few morals:
1. Never underestimate the amount of damage that can be accomplished by a bored and lonely toddler. (Corollary 1A. Never be sick when you’re a mom.)
2. If you’re not taking the time to teach your toddler how to work, he’ll create those opportunities for you.
3. It’s too bad Magic Erasers can’t get ball point pen off of fabric-upholstered couches.