Last night we had an incident. It was a day of incidents involving a certain mischievous toddler who is learning that mother is not amused by her foraging into the open bag of sugar or by her dumping spices all over the kitchen and dining room floors. But last night, we had the granddaddy of incidents.
I was trying to read the three books we have on St. Nicholas to interested children. Several children were drawing pictures for St. Nicholas on the dining room table. Peter had “messed up” and “needed” White-Out. I have had my perfectionist children utilize this substance when their schoolwork – written in ink – has needed correction. Very quickly they turned to it for every little mistake, even ones done in pencil. They even used it to decorate their Halloween pumpkins. I keep telling them it is not paint. And I keep telling them they need to keep it capped and out of little hands. They do not heed me.
As I was reading, I looked up, and Mary had joined those at the table doing art work. “Is there anything on the table for her to get into?” I asked, completely forgetting about the White-Out. They assured me it was safe. Not five minutes later, a cry of alarm went up. Sure enough, she had spilled it and had used it as finger paint on the table.
What followed was a flurry of activity as children were ordered to clean the table with paper towels and Goof-Off (I am almost out of this fantastic cleaner), and I attempted to wash the stuff off the baby’s hands and arms and had to use Goof-Off there, too. After all this was done, I walked past the table to throw something away before resuming my reading, and that’s when I saw the other pool of white liquid at the other end of the table. This one was even bigger and incorporated a sizable section of my favorite tablecloth which had been pushed back to allow for drawing on the wood surface. To say I was upset would be an understatement.
Story time was over. Children were instructed to clean up the few scattered toys and to begin the rosary while I cleaned the mess. And then off to bed with them.
I did hear whispering, and Fritz asked me how to make scrambled eggs, an unusual question from an eleven year old boy at bedtime. Thus I was not overly surprised when I heard noises in the kitchen early this morning. I was, though, surprised at the hour: 4:50 AM. My boys do not generally get up before 6 AM. I remained in bed as long as the tot, who joined me around midnight, would allow, which was about an hour longer.
Despite expecting breakfast, I was nevertheless surprised by the magnitude. The table was set for all of us. Orange juice had been made from the frozen concentrate. Coffee was poured (and cold – Fritz doesn’t seem to understand that some things are meant to be consumed at a temperature above room temperature). Sausage was made. Eggs were made (also cold, and not at all tasty…I did my best to eat them and then suggested he have a hands-on lesson another day). Bread was toasted, and waffles, which he does know how to do, were in process (the plain were done and he was working on the chocolate chip).
The boys had set their alarm for 4:30 AM knowing that I am usually up by 5 AM. The girls had been in on the planning, but when the boys tried to get them up to help with the execution, my sleeping beauties had blearily sat at the table and then escaped back to their soft beds the first moment the boys turned their backs.
“Did you do this for the feast of St. Nicholas?” I asked Billy.
“Yes…and because we’re sorry about the table cloth,” he replied.
I had forgiven them, of course. A tablecloth is, after all, merely a tablecloth. I am so very thankful for these wonderful children who are beginning to learn that just saying sorry doesn’t fix destroyed property, but who are willing to put in such extra effort to mend a relationship strained by their negligence.
And I am thankful for the mercies of God Who forgives me my anger. And I shall see what extra effort I can take today to make up for my own misdeeds.
In the meantime, White-Out is now banned and any rogue containers I find will be confiscated and thrown in the garbage.