Just A Mess

I have come to two conclusions about all those parenting-your-toddler-books:

1) They all say the same thing: Let your toddler be a part of everything you do! Let him help you! Toddlers want to be useful, they want to be a part of what you’re doing, so just let them.


2) The people who write this nonsense have never actually had a toddler.

I often let Josh help me cook, as long as it’s safe.  His favorite thing to make is quesadillas, since he gets to spread the cheese on the tortilla shells and then fold them over.  Last night we had been running errands all afternoon, and he was tired and grouchy, and I was tired and grouchy, so I decided that quesadillas would be the perfect dinner.  Easy and simple for me and something he enjoys for him.
I spread the tortilla shells out on the baking pan and asked Josh to get the cheese out of the refrigerator.  Usually he just opens the door, opens the drawer and pulls out the shredded cheese and brings it over, but last night he decided he was thirsty instead.  He took the carton of milk out, pulled the cap off, and then dumped it all over the floor before I could grab it.

All over my carpeted kitchen floor. (Whoever carpets kitchen floors has never had a toddler, either)

I was not happy.
I may have yelled at him a little bit about constantly making messes.  Which made his little face crinkle up and tears start pouring out as he ran into the living room and laid down on the floor to cry.  He lay there with his head on his Thomas The Tank Engine pillow and his thumb in his mouth, crying like his heart was going to break.  Mommy, you see, had never really yelled at him before.

I spread paper towels as much as I could, but the carpet was fast absorbing the milk.  It was going to have to be shampooed.  Immediately, or I was going to have a kitchen that stank of sour milk until the day we can pull the carpet up. 

Sighing, I went out to the living room to get the shampooer.  The water hadn’t been changed since the last time I shampooed, and so I would have to clean it out, and it was going to smell–very, very bad smells.  For whatever reason, the stinky water in our shampooer always smells like manure and makes me vomit, so I make my husband change it.  Except he wasn’t home, and wasn’t going to be until morning.
Josh perked up. “Help Mommy?”  He asked. 
I should have known better, but I’d just yelled at him, something I’ve never done before.  And he was sad.  So I hugged him and told him he could help, and we pushed the carpet shampooer into the kitchen.  I pulled the water tank off of it and set it on the floor, then tried to unscrew it so I could dump it in the toilet. 

And it came apart. Spilling dark, dirty, nasty smelling water all over the carpet, which immediately started to absorb all of it.

I thought I was going to cry. Instead, I threw up from the smell(fortunately, the bathroom was a few steps away).   Josh sat there, watching me.  Watching what I did.  Was I going to yell again? Was it his fault?  Would it be okay?

Then my little boy touched my hand. “It ok, Mommy,” he whispered. “It just mess.”
It’s okay, Mommy.  It’s just a mess. I’m here.  It will get cleaned up.  It’s not really that big of a deal.
I love you, Mommy.

And I realized I was handling it all wrong.
The milk, the water, trying to clean everything up–it’s just a mess.  It had to be cleaned immediately, but it’s just a mess. My 22-month-old son understood better than I did at age 30–it’s just spilled milk. It’s not worth getting all upset about.   It’s a mess that will get cleaned up and go away, but the words I said to my son in anger will never get cleaned up. They will never go away.
And a simple mess on the floor, no matter how frustrating, isn’t worth angry words.

I picked him up and kissed him. “Mommy has to clean this up,” I said, “Do you want to watch Mickey while I do, and then we’ll eat dinner?”
It still took another hour to really shampoo and clean that carpet up, at least so it didn’t smell bad.  And Josh got spaghettios instead of quesadillas, but he didn’t care, since he got to smear it all in his hair and get the second bath of the day.  And I was exhausted, but, really, it wasn’t a big deal.
After all, it was only a mess.



In a few weeks, there is pink coming to my house.  A little girl, Olivia Grace.  She looks perfect, delicate, cute on the ultrasound.  We watched her kick and squirm and suck her thumb, much we saw her brother doing two years ago.

In between the looking at the pink furry blankets, checking out the sweet baby dresses, and making lists of what I will need for her, I sometimes sneak a peek at my future–the older girl’s clothing section.   And then I decide that my future, and Livie’s future, does not involve the wearing of sweatpants with the word “Brat” emblazoned on the butt.  Or a skimpy two piece bathing suit at the age of seven.  Or anything having to do with Justin Bieber.

This is what frightens me about raising a girl.  The world is going to try to sell her so many lies, just because she is female.
It’s going to tell her that she has to look a certain way in order to be pretty.
It’s going to tell her that she can’t be too smart or boys won’t like her.
It’s going to tell her that boys liking her is the most important thing ever.

And I’m going to be here, telling her, you can do anything.  You can be anything.  You can be a stay at home mom and raise beautiful little grandchildren for me.  You can be a teacher, a nurse, a journalist,  an engineer, you can work in any traditionally male field you want–even emergency medicine or firefighting.
Boys are not all that important, especially until you are at least 25 and maybe then you can notice them.
A “nice guy” who mistreats you or others in any way is not a nice guy, and should not be in your life. (Also, if you have problems telling him to leave, call me. I’ve never had issues telling people what I think of them, especially when it concerns my children.)
How you look is not nearly as important as how you behave, no matter what the world tells you.

You are strong. You are smart. You matter.

But those are hard messages to get across in a world of Bratz and Disney Princesses waiting to be rescued.  It’s a hard message to get across in a world where little girls are sexualized in beauty pageants and the tween aisle at Walmart.  I have hope, though, because I know Olivia’s world will be filled with strong, solid female role models.  I know she will see the women in her life making choices that are not always traditional, but are right for them.  I trust that she will grow into a strong, capable woman who does not rely on peer pressure and modern culture to tell her what she must be.

But until then, no, there will be no emblazoned-across-the-butt sweatpants in this house.