OH MAN YOU GUYS Chicken and I had an EPIC battle of wills this afternoon.
I spent over an hour last night folding a week's worth of child laundry.
I had two baskets filled with neatly-stacked pants and shorts, a pile of sharply-quartered shirts with their ribbed neck bands all oriented the same direction.
Chicken's basket also had a stack of itty-bitty boxer briefs, closed as prettily as tiny books and lined up in a rainbow stack.
Buster's basket also had two changing pad covers, rolled up awkwardly because they're basically miniature fitted sheets and I'm not actually Gandalf the Grey. #fittedsheets #folditlikeaball #aintnobodygottimeforthatshit
Today during quiet time, Chicken dumped both of those baskets of clothes onto the floor.
And then he danced.
|see that shirt|
in his hand
was his ribbon
he's got the magic
Or possibly did a floor routine. But I mean, what's the difference between rhythmic gymnastics and modern dance, anyway? Who am I to draw such a line? Bottom line: a staggering display of grace and athleticism upon a staggering display of being an insensitive dick.
I looked down at the pile of trampled shirts, pants, the once-neatly rolled socks now torn apart willy nilly.
My laundry sentence had just been doubled.
|i did this|
literally anything else
this was done
Me: Wellllllll... shit.
Me: Yeah... No.
As he screamed the feral, shattered scream of a child in his inaugural Bambi viewing, I stepped out of the room and locked the door behind me.
I'm gonna be vulnerable right now and share part of my journey with you, the part of the journey where I wanted to be like "THAT'S FUCKING BULLSHIT, Chicken."
Also, I want to share the slight detour off the journey where I wanted to get down on his level, look into his eyes, and say, "You will never wear clothes again. For I will burn them all tonight. I want you to think about that. The next time I clip you into a car seat that's been baking in the 115-degree car for an hour, that red-hot black plastic chest clip is going to lie directly on your nipples and the whole way home we're like 'damn, smells like someone's grillin' some RIBS!'"
Sooooo I feel like slamming a door in his face was like, not awesome, but definitely better.
A few breaths later I came back in.
Me: So, Chicken, let me explain how I'm feeling, okay?
Chicken: Okay. You're probably feeling like, huh, I guess my quiet time is over?
Me: NO. THAT IS NOT HOW I'M FEELING.
Me: I'm feeling like I spent an hour last night folding your laundry so you could have clean clothes in your drawers. I did that because I love you. Because I care about giving you a home where you can trust that there will be hot, healthy meals for you three times a day, where you know that I'll tuck you in every night in clean sheets, where you know that when you call out in the night I will come to you, where, yes, you can open your dresser drawers and find clean clothes whenever you need to change your shirt.
Me: Yes! Wow! I did this work after you had already gone to sleep. I did this work instead of going for a run. I did this work instead of seeing a friend, or playing a game, or talking to Daddy, or watching a movie. I did this. For you.
Chicken: Yeah... it really feels like my quiet time is over now.
Me: (eerily calm) No Chicken. Your quiet time has only begun. Your quiet time will be over when you have put all of this laundry back into the baskets.
Me: Call me when it's done.
At 4:57 pm it had been 2 hours since I caught him Groundhog Day-ing last night's laundry.
The first time I checked on him nothing had been done.
in his nap diaper
I shrugged and retreated behind the locked door again.
The second time, the boy needed some clarity as to the difference between "folded" and "crammed into a ball the size of Chicken's fists."
The third time, he had two small, messily folded piles of clothes in two baskets. He was about 10% done. He looked up and said, "This is taking a long time."
Me: (giggling hysterically) Hahahahahahaha! Yes!!! It DOES take a long time! A lot longer than it took to dump it all out, right?
Chicken: Oh yeah! Dumping was pretty quick. Like (pantomimes flipping a laundry basket into the air like a disgruntled board member flipping a conference table) THAT. Pretty quick.
Me: And how much time does it take to fold all this laundry?
Chicken: Ugh, it takes for EVER.
Me: That's right. Please remember that when you see a basket of folded laundry. Please remember how long it takes to fill it up.
Chicken: I will. I understand now, Mommy. I'm SO sorry.
Me: Thank you, Chicken. I forgive you.
Chicken: Soooooo... you can finish this up.
At 5:06 pm he called me in to review his work.
Listen, please don't interpret this blog post as like me bragging about how I fucking BEAT my four-year-old. I mean, I DID. But I'm not bragging about it. If anything, the power struggle element of the whole situation feels a little small and hollow to me. Like, wow, Katie, slow clap for you, you're a 32-year-old woman with superior strength and the ability to lock a child in a room until he folded to your will. #HIGHROAD
I am proud of myself for staying calm and presenting his consequence as a natural result of his actions, rather than a punitive grounding. Natural consequences... when they fall into your lap, they are fucking beautiful to behold.
I am mostly proud of him, for making the connection that folding laundry is the fucking worst, and then being proud of himself for doing the damn thing.
The only thing worse than finding two hampers of folded clothes trampled on the floor is finding two bottles of fresh-pumped breastmilk spattered in a sad, still-warm puddle. Both spills are symbols of a mother's internment, how the promises that she has made to maintain the health and stability of her child's life must be kept, even if they fly through the air and land in a heap. Even if she has to start again, and again, and again.
As Chicken strutted out of the room, after a fierce hug and sting-y high-five, he crowed to the empty play room and fist-pumped into the air for emphasis, "Now I will ALWAYS follow the rule of NO! DUMPING! LAUNDRY!"
Yes, my son.