Thursday, January 6, 2011

Take Out the Papers and The Trash

When I was an at-home father, the house was usually a mess when Verna got home from work, which frustrated her almost daily.

"Can't you pick everything up before I get home?" she asked, with children's books and wooden blocks and dozens of Thomas the Tank Engine trains, tracks, and toys strewn across the floor and couch.

"But, why?" I asked almost innocently. "We're just going to make a mess after dinner?"

"Because coming home to a clean house matters to me," she responded, a flash of anger in her eyes.

At the time, I thought Verna's logic was harsh. Now I know that Mother Truly Knows Best, or at least Verna did. A clean house is relaxing and helps one feel in control...for a few moments anyway.

The other night, as I was cleaning up the kitchen after dinner and Miguel was sprawled on the couch with strep throat, Maya was quietly terrorizing the house. She'd pulled out her toy cellphones, books, mini-photo albums, puzzle pieces, several stuffed animals and dolls, clothing, keys, paper bags, three or four pocketbooks, a walkie-talkie, dirty socks, and jewelry and unceremoniously dumped everything in several piles across the living room, kitchen, and dining area.

Maya is so great at entertaining herself and playing imaginatively all alone, but she manages to use at least a hundred different items and then just leaves them on the floor when she is done.

Somewhere in heaven, Verna is cackling: "Ha! Now you know how I felt." To which I respond: "You're not kidding."

So I looked at Maya, who was innocently pulling another book or two off the shelf, and said, "Oy, what a mess. Who's going to clean this up?"

"Daddy," she answered too quickly.

"Daddy?" I asked in mock anger. "Why daddy?"

At this point, I expected Maya to start bawling, "I don't want to clean up alone. Daddy help me." But, no, she surprised me. "Because it's daddy's house."

"Because it's daddy's house," I repeated, not sure if I should laugh, cry, or raise my voice. "Why do you say it's daddy's house?"

"Because you were born first," Maya said.

Hard to argue with that logic, so I cleaned up the living room with a bit of help from my energetic preschooler. And it was hard to get mad at someone who lumbered down the stairs this morning in polka dot feet pajamas, sleep still stretched across her face, hair tangled, and said sadly, "I wish Mommy was here right now."

"Me, too," I said.

Then, just as I dropped her off at school today, Maya burbled excitedly, "I wish it was Christmas everyday."

No, no, no. Christmas every day? Do you know how much gift wrapping I'd have to pick up?

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