In 2003, Augusten Burroughs’s quasi-memoir Running With Scissors was released. The story was a bestselling account of an ordinary boy’s survival under the most extraordinary familial circumstances. To say that the young man’s upbringing was far from conventional, might be an understatement. One of the most impacting quotes from the book for me was, “I want rules… and boundaries… because… what I’ve learned is that… without them… all life is… is a series of surprises.”
As the mother of preschoolers, your days are filled with a continual series of surprises. Recently two of my four children, the Blonde (age 5) and the Brunette (age 4), have made some…questionable….boundary exploring choices.
A few weeks ago I found the girls playing Cafe in the kitchen. As I puttered around the house, I returned only to discover they were attempting to feed spoonfuls of PlayDoh to Baby (age 2). Her lips were stained a highly suspicious blue color, which confirmed in my mind they had been moderately successful.
“Noooooo!!!” and “Why??????” were apparently the only words that I could muster.
That choice was….digestively questionable.
Last weekend I discovered they had dumped an entire bucket of Kinetic sand onto the floor of the carpeted play room. I guess I should be relieved in that instance they were not eating or attempting to eat a product described on its own packaging as 98% sand and 2% magic.
“Nooooo!!!” and “Why??????” were again apparently the only words that I could muster.
That choice was…. magically questionable.
This week Sharpiegeddon took place. Some of their most surprising work to date took place on December 4th at 12:37 pm. I had just ended a rather involved phone call with a friend. As I walked into the kitchen, I instantly spotted the anomaly in the front room.
Someone….had drawn on the back of a cream colored leather chair. In….oh it couldn’t be….oh yes it was….permanent marker.
I’m not talking about three little mischievous whips of the hand. I’m talking about full on Jackson Pollock mural work. I later discovered the Blonde had actually started the canvas the night before, but had run out of time to complete the work.
What I was actually looking at now was the second phase of this masterpiece. The Brunette seemed rather oblivious, but was just thrilled to have been extended an invitation to participate.
As you may have guessed, “Noooo!!!!” and “Why?!?!?” were the only words to escape my lips…..as I fell in slow motion to my knees.
This choice was…. artistically questionable.
Let me stop you. I know what you are thinking. Such a horrifying offense could never happen in your home….because you have all your craft supplies stores in a locked cupboard. Am I right?
Ahhhh…..your innocence is truly heart warming. I mean it….there’s a real Hallmark quality to it, and I hope its years before your offspring crush your idealism.
Friends, the weapons used to commit this terrible crime were in fact located in a locked cupboard. I’m the mother of four young children….I might be tired….but I’m not a fool. This crime was full on vandalism with a dash of breaking and entering. That’s a sentence every mother loves to hear herself say, and hopes to include in her annual Christmas newsletter.
Now listen carefully. It’s critical to understand that with ink…even the permanent kind…you do have a brief window of time to act before it sets up. So you have to snap out of your state of shock and spring into action. The winning microfiber and leather brew that is literally the Kryptonite to this heinous crime is a paste of baking soda and water…… followed by a brushing of rubbing alcohol.
DO NOT….I repeat….DO NOT….. attempt to use a Magic Eraser on anything other than your walls. Let this serve as a public service announcement, because it will save you from any unnecessarily painful conversations you really don’t want to have with your partner as to why the finish has been stripped from his grandmother’s heirloom dining table. The magic in the Magic Eraser is strictly for your walls.
Mark that nugget down…this is timeless wisdom for the ages, and it will save you from unnecessary early graying.
We survived this unauthorized Sharpie usage, but there was a moment. A moment I questioned my very success as a parent, and if I had the stamina to endure another 20 years of this kind of mental torture. Overall, I am the clear colored leather chair walked away with minimal battle scars.
I think it was in light of all of these series of unfortunate events, I think I found comedian Jim Gaffigan’s New York Times article on traveling with kids….particularly amusing. My favorite quote from the piece was….”Traveling with 3- and 4-year-old boys is like transferring serial killers from a prison. You have to be constantly aware.”
I think its safe to say that is also good wisdom to impart when one is also raising mischief loving preschoolers in general. A diligent eye is critical to the survival of your sanity. Otherwise you are going to hear yourself mumble phrases like, “This is why we can’t have nice things,” over….and over….and over.
I have come to believe that motherhood isn’t something that we can perfect. It is in fact the strategic navigation of a series of moments. At times like these, its important for me to remind myself that silence can be golden….but more often than not….its highly, highly suspicious. So Mr. Burroughs I guess that means even with boundaries…..life with preschoolers is always a series of surprises.
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Summer Smith is a speaker, writer, and motherhood blogger. She and her family are currently navigating the suburbs of Northern Virginia. As the mother to four young children, Summer maintains her sanity thanks to her sense of humor, copious amounts of coffee, and Amazon Prime. Maya Angelou once said, when reflecting on her childhood, that her mother left an impression like technicolor stars in the midnight sky. Influenced by these words, Summer blogs at her website Motherhood in Technicolor, and can also be found on her Motherhood in Technicolor Facebook page.