Before I became a parent I was a nanny for many years. One of the services I offered was to design the children’s playroom. I created beautiful spaces with toys grouped by learning categories. Everything had its place.
As soon as the kids broke a toy, I whisked it away never to be seen again. The parents always returned home to a clean and organized playspace.
Needless to say, I have a different style of family, and my child’s play areas look a little different. There is one giant toy box that all the toys get shoveled into. Or not. My son’s toys are all mixed up with one another and scattered here and there… or somewhere.
I used to think that broken toys were sad. I didn’t understand why a useless item should stay among the intact toys. Now I have a more -ahem- casual relationship with cleaning up. My child’s collection of toys is riddled with broken parts.
And from those broken pieces, I’ve seen a magic arise.
I watch him stack the wheels...
A loud noise reverberated from the next room over.
You’re a parent, so you know. You know the fears that run through your mind when there’s a BANG somewhere, and your child is also… somewhere.
Of course I was in the shower. Heaven forbid I make it peacefully through a whole shower.
I listened for crying. No. Probably no one was injured.
I stepped out of the shower and dried off, just in time.
Just in time to see my naked 5 year old run into the bathroom.
Covered head to toe in orange paint.
And the carpet was also bright orange, leading from the bathroom back to his play area. I plopped my son into the bathtub and then turned the corner to see where the bang had come from.
I never found out what actually caused the bang.
The floor was a giant puddle of orange paint. The table was also covered in orange. A nearby room divider, orange. Chairs, orange.
How did I react to all of this? Was I angry? Sad? Disappointed? Overwhelmed?
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It can seem like our jobs as parents is to find out what our kids want and declare whether or not they get to have it.
YES or NO, we decree.
This is a great and heady power.
We default to no.
Then one NO accidentally slips into no no no no no no no no no….
To know this, all you have to do is listen.
One day I paid close attention, and this is what I heard myself saying to my toddler:
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