The other day, I totally lost it.
We had a random, low key morning around the house. The girls weren't interested in the play doh, or the stamping, or coloring. They were doing that play with this toy for thirty seconds and then abandon it and start playing with this toy and then abandon it and then fight to the death over this random small piece of plastic and then abandon it and then put on princess dresses....thing that drives me absolutely batty because it involves a lot of mess and screeching and running and chaos.
I was brainstorming to figure out what I could give them to do that wouldn't be abandoned in moments or cause more screeching. Finally, I hit upon the sensory table! We hadn't used it in weeks and it would be an awesome treat! I pulled it out, filled it with lentils, scoops, bowls, even a tea set. I set down the big tablecloth underneath and reminded them of the rules (lentils stay in the table). They were thrilled, and after supervising for about five minutes, I was able to go do some things like unload the dishwasher, switch the laundry, survey the chaos, all that fun mom stuff.
Sidenote: I am often asked about our sensory table. We use THIS water table. I've used lots of things in it. Dried pasta, water beads, lentils, dried beans, rainbow rice, oatmeal, and naturally, snow in the winter. Obviously use what your kids can handle. Kids who are still in the putting stuff in their mouths and noses stage should probably stick to oatmeal and rice and pasta and snow.
Now I am a big proponent of this kind of play. When people tell me they could never because it's so messy, I usually say that the kids know the general rules, I supervise the beginning of the play to make sure they're on the right track, and that, actually, clean up is a breeze. The tablecloth catches the bulk of the mess, and at most, it's a few minutes of sweeping and using the cordless vacuum to tackle the rest.
Except for the other day.
I unloaded the dryer and brought a full laundry basket upstairs. When I came back down I froze.
The entire kitchen floor was covered in lentils. I would say about 50% of the supply was on the floor, 25% on the tablecloth, and 25% left in the table.
And they were sprinkling lentils on each other's heads.
Now I'm not a member of the "no yelling" movement, but I also don't yell often. So it got their attention and they froze. Then I used my scary mommy slow and quiet voice to tell them to
pick. up. every. single. lentil. right. now.
They started to. Very quietly, very seriously. But within minutes there was giggling. And crawling. And more lentil spreading!!!!
My temper was rising in that slow boil. I snapped to get their attention. I whispered with venom. I threatened loss of toys, privileges, activities. They'd very seriously react to me, start painstakingly cleaning, but within minutes they were giggling together again. Which was infuriating me in a way that I can't even rationalize. How could they be giggling together??
Finally, when I was about to lose it, Adam came down to grab a snack and surveyed the scene. Since this had been going on for about an hour, they'd made a pretty good dent (although they'd also made a good dent in my sanity and I was madder then than I'd been when I saw the initial mess). He suggested I step out of the kitchen for a few minutes and handed them the broom and the cordless vacuum to handle the rest. He followed me to get the full story when we heard the crash.
The handle of the broom, wielded by Madison, had swept along the counter and knocked the remainder of breakfast dishes onto the floor.
Where they smashed.
And I totally lost it.
I went full on feral mommy and yelled at them to get up in your rooms RIGHT NOW! They both burst into loud tears and ran, full on ran, up the stairs.
I picked up the broken pieces. Finished cleaning the floor. Calmed down.
As I walked upstairs to address the two prisoners, I tried to figure out how to calmly explain why I was so mad. Wait, why was I so mad?
The dish? That was a pure accident. Which was due to my inability to get the dishwasher loaded. And pfaltzgraf has a lifetime warranty. And we have the most simple and basic of the dishes, precisely so we can replace them when life happens.
The mess? I didn't expect such carnage, sure, but was I really so naive to think that they would play without one?
The giggling? I was mad that they were behaving like sisters, sticking together under the Wrath of Mom and making the best of the situation?
By the time I got to prisoner #1's room, bearing her lunch on a tray, she was sound asleep, clutching her bink.
Prisoner #2 was also in her bed, but awake and sniffling and discussing the situation in great detail with her dolls. I set her lunch on her table, and we cuddled up to talk. I started in on how I wasn't mad about the dishes, I was angry because she disobeyed me and then didn't clean and that wasn't respectful and she interrupted with,
That's OK Mommy. I love you even when you're mad. And sometimes I yell too when I'm really mad. But I still love you.
Ugh, this kid. This kid just knows how to lay on the guilt.
Obviously she wasn't totally let off the hook. I didn't take away all her toys and books and clothes and Halloween candy and food and activities like I'd wanted to thirty minutes earlier, but we brainstormed about how she could help contribute to replacing the dishes and how she could earn back my trust for playing with the table.
But the biggest lesson I taught her is that sometimes it's ok to lose it. I was angry. But I walked away and calmed down, and now we could talk. If I hadn't yelled, if I hadn't gotten so mad, I'd probably still be a little bit mad. It let her know that it's human to get mad. And it let her know that not listening and obeying felt like a really big deal to me.
I'll lose it again. I'm sure of it.
She will too.
But then we'll sweep up the pieces, check the lifetime warranty, and move on.
Next paragraph here.