Monday, April 25, 2011

A Glimpse into the Psyche of a Momma's Girl


See that pink and green stuff spread all over the bedroom floor? That, my friends, is Easter grass. Heinous plastic Easter grass. Stuff that should most certainly be outlawed in, at minimum, the contiguous United Stated. Personally, I don't buy plastic Easter grass anymore. I only buy the paper kind. The paper “grass” is biodegradable and, therefore, less of an environmental hazard. In addition, it is at least one hundred times easier to pick up when it is inevitably strewn across my children's bedroom floors. It is less likely to cause severe intestinal turmoil for the family cat. And I do not have to endure the pleasure of scooping pink strands out of the litter box. So all things considered, paper Easter grass is the only way to go. Why, then, is there pink and green plastic Easter grass in the picture above? I have a simple, one-word response to that question. Grandma.

Yes, grandma made the kids Easter baskets. In her defense, they were really quite exceptional baskets. They practically put the Easter Bunny to shame. Minimal candy, which is a major accomplishment for grandma. Instead, she filled the basket full to the brim with super cool beach toys. As a matter of fact, the “baskets” themselves were beach buckets—perfect for making kick-ass sand castles this summer. The goggles, in particular, were a hit. The kids were pretending to be scuba diving in this picture. I can't look at Sophie's face without laughing out loud.

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Despite the utter awesomeness of the baskets my mom brought, I am not sure I can forgive her for the plastic grass. As a matter of fact, as I write this, I am multitasking. I am simultaneously blogging and formulating a sizable bill to compensate me for emotional trauma endured at the hands of her plastic grass. She should be expecting the bill in the mail within the next few days. How did something as seemingly innocuous as plastic Easter grass cause me emotional trauma? Well, allow me to explain.

This afternoon, I was trying to relax on the couch and watch Gone With the Wind. (Gone With the Wind is newly available for immediate viewing on Netflix. I started it Friday night, completely oblivious to the fact that the movie is four hours long. I am afraid I will still be watching it come next month). Lucas was at school and the kids were playing quietly in their rooms. When the time came to leave to pick up Lucas from school, Sophie—the ever-behaving good girl—asked if they needed to first clean up the mess in Nicky's room. Hmm? What mess? I followed Sophie to the room to find plastic Easter grass strewn across every free inch of floor space in the room. I shut the door, as to prevent the cat's gastrointestinal upheaval, and ushered the kids out the door. In the minivan on the way Lucas' school, I explained in no uncertain terms that they would be responsible for picking up that mess when we got back home. Nicky—arguably the laziest child ever put on this Earth—immediately asked if Lucas would be required to help them. “No Nicky, Lucas was at school when you and Sophie made the mess. Why should he clean it up?”

We proceeded to pick up Lucas, who met me in tears because he suddenly remembered at the end of the school day that he was still grounded from the Wii. We drove home with Lucas wailing about the Wii, Nicholas complaining that he did not want to clean up the mess in his room, and Sophie wanting to know if she could have chocolate Easter Bunny in place of her usual dinner.

When we arrived at home, I immediately sent Sophie and Nicholas to clean up the Easter grass mess while I sat down to do homework with Lucas. At least five times, Sophie came out to tell me that Nicholas was refusing to clean up. At least ten times, Nicholas came out to tell me that he didn't feel like cleaning up. Now normally, Sophie—who is a rule-follower to a fault—would eventually just clean up the mess herself. Today, however, something snapped in her. She refused to do it all herself. She took a stand for good girls everywhere. She took on the lazy, useless brothers of the world head-on. She flat-out refused to clean until Nicky started cleaning. Little did she know that Nicholas' laziness far outweighed her ability to withstand a mess without cleaning it. She begged him. She pleaded. She burst into tears. Despite my numerous requests—and clenched-jaw demands—that they clean the room, Sophie and Nicholas refused.

Eventually, their screaming and crying became more than I could handle and I put them both into time-out so that we could finish Lucas' homework. Sophie is the quintessential people-pleaser. Despite sometimes being a bit snarky and sassy, for the most, Sophie is a rule follower. She does what she is told. She aims to please. She is a good girl. I can't remember the last time Sophie was put into a time out. And it devastated her. Her very soul was decimated. Her cries turned to agonizing sobs. Her face instantly broke out in her signature hideous red splotches. Her nose—she had a cold to begin with—suddenly began producing snot by the bucket-load. Snot was dripping off her chin and she was wailing in pain. Mommy had forsaken her. Mommy had put the little perfectionist—the perfect little do-gooder—in time out. She had disappointed mommy. For Sophie, there was no greater hell on Earth.

When Sophie and Nicholas' time-out ended, I went to the bedroom to sit down with them and help them clean up. The time-out had not fazed Nicholas in the least. His laziness was still one hundred percent intact. Sophie, on the other hand, was still crying hysterically. She was quite a sight to behold with the leper-like splotches all over her face and the snot dripping off her chin. She was crying to the extent that I began to get concerned that she was going to throw up. She was snuffing and gagging. I tried to calm her down. I held her a bit and cuddled her. I helped her pick up the grass. I told her everything was okay. We spent a good thirty minutes picking up each individual strand of plastic Easter grass from the carpet. Not only does the heinous stuff constipate the cat and destroy the environment. It also produces ludicrous amounts of static electricity. Try getting that stuff to let go of your hand when you are picking it up! I am adding a couple of extra zeros to the bill I am sending my mother—a static electricity up-charge. We were eventually able to pick up all of the Easter grass. We put it all back into their baskets. Then we walked the baskets to the trash can and dumped it all out. That detestable grass if now the problem of the Minneapolis Division of Solid Waste and Recycling. Better them than me.

Since the time-out trauma, Sophie has told me that she loves me no less than twenty-five times this evening. Eventually, I had to sit her down and explain that putting her into time-out in no way diminishes my love for her. And that I still think she is the greatest little girl that ever walked the Earth. We've had a lot of discussions in our house this week about consequences—what with Lucas' complete and total disregard for his school work. Tonight that discussion continued. Try explaining consequences to a four-year-old who thinks mommy will stop loving her if she is not perfect. I don't know where that notion comes from, but she tries so hard to be perfect. She wants to be everything to everyone. She wants to be the best. She wants to do the best. She constantly looks to Ruanita and I for validation. I need to remember that her precious little psyche is in my hands. I need to handle her with gentle hands. She may appear a completely capable, sassy little hellion at times, but she is just a four-year-old little girl.

And she needs to know that she is perfectly lovable—even when she isn't being perfectly perfect.

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6 comments:

Madgew said...

So hard to be perfect. Have a make a mistake day for her where everyone makes mistakes. It works to relieve the pressure of being perfect. The other two need a be perfect day-much harder to do than make a mistake day. Your kids and your stories keep me laughing as I continually read your wonderfully written stories.

Jessica said...

Ah I can only imagine the trauma. Poor Sophie! I was hoping to read that you discussed consequences with Nicholas and that your plan was to ban him from the Wii if he didn't help clean up. You have a powerful weapon at your disposal, don't overlook the possibilities! ;)

Shannon Ralph said...

I know, Jess. In hindsight, I should have just punished Nicholas and left Sophie alone. She wanted to clean up, but was taking a stand against Nicholas' laziness. But when the noise and chaos becomes deafening, sometimes the kids just get lumped together. I need to work on that. This parenting stuff isn't easy, is it? :)

Barb said...

You and I feel exactly the same about plastic grass... and I've been composing Facebook status updates about the stuff for 3 days.

Madgew said...

Shannon, it doesn't always come out even. You are a great Mom and letting go of some of the chaos will work most of the time. Sometimes collateral damage is unavoidable. Both of you will get over it. And no one is perfect and the sooner Sophia gets that the better for her as she grows up. I have one of those and he is turning 40. He learned to let go of perfection finally.

Jessica said...

Amen sister! It sure isn't. And I know the craziness that can happen when all you hear is crying, screaming, fit throwing, etc. Hang in there, you're doing great.

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