I’m always in awe of parents who have the patience of Job—ones who have the ability to not only provide discipline in a calm, loving manner, but who also let their children get creative and crafty in their home on a regular basis without complaining about it.
I’m the first to admit I occasionally judge other parents, but many times I’m comparing myself to them: how good they are at A, B, C, or how they let their kids slide down the stairs on the couch cushions because it’s good, clean, indoor fun. When all I’d be thinking is, “Hey! That’s going to ruin my couch cushions!”
My children’s latest in-home craze is to build forts. Forts and kids go together like a runny nose and cold and flu season. When I was a child, building forts was one of my own favorite past times, and I have fond memories of playing in them on rainy days, peeking out from the sheet ceiling to watch the lightning. In this technological age you can even find directions on how to build a fort on the web, for kids who’d rather Google it than experiment by trial and error.
My children like to gather every unattached blanket and bed sheet in the house and proceed to create a fort that spans the entire downstairs living room. I remain upstairs silently grateful that the kids have been kept busy for at least an hour without fighting or needing a snack, but I’m fully aware that this brief moment in my day will have consequences and is simply the calm before the storm.
The cherubs then appear upstairs to beckon, “Come see the fort mom!” with excitement in their eyes, anticipating my enthusiastic response to their budding architectural skills. I wander downstairs with them, hand in hand, and look at the creation that’s given me a few quiet moments of respite.
It is times like these when my brain splits in two and I become the Sybil of myself, which is to say that there is the good mom response (GM) and there is the controlling woman response (CW), and I need a few seconds to make sure the correct persona is the only one speaking aloud.
GM: “Wow!” I exclaim. “What a huge fort! You could fit about 35 kids in that thing.”
CW: Seriously? I can’t even see the other side of the room! Are those the sheets from my bed? I just made that bed!
GM: “Boy howdy you kids are creative, using the craft wire to poke holes in the edges of the blankets so you could string it up to the drapery panels. I never would have thought of that! I can see you also used every book in the house to secure the edges of the sheets to the book shelves. And every Yankee Candle too. Just be careful that those don’t fall off and hurt your heads.”
CW: For the love of all that is good, they punctured my blankets with wire? And seriously? They used every book in the house as sheet weights? Wait’ll those books fall on their heads, then they’ll learn.”
I restrain that controlling woman so only good mom speaks aloud, which inspires even more glee from the children who then ask, “Can we eat lunch in the fort? And watch a movie? Please please please please please?”
GM: “Why of course you can! That sounds like such fun! How ‘bout I make a picnic and bring it down here and you all can play in the fort while you wait? After lunch you can watch a movie, how’s that sound?”
CW: Fabulous. Now I’m going to have to vacuum bread crumbs and wipe peanut butter smudge off the carpet after they eat in there. And no doubt some kid is going to spill her drink. And they’re going to want popcorn with that movie. Ugh.
But I make lunch. And they joyfully eat it in the fort. Five minutes later, their lunch inhaled, they scurry upstairs to announce, “We’re going to go play next door. ‘K mom?”
GM: “Wait a minute. You kids need to go clean up downstairs before you leave. Make sure you fold everything back up and put away all the books.”
CW: And that room better look just like it did before you started.
They pick up, rush out the door in a Tazmanian whirlwind and I wait for the dust to settle momentarily. That eerie silence pierces my ears a few seconds. I relish this brief moment before I head downstairs to find what I know I’m going to find.
The blankets, “folded” in lumpy piles, that wouldn’t fit back into the closest even I used those vacuum suction bags. The furniture, misplaced and moved in various parts of the room. My books, still stacked on the shelves that held up the sheets. More books on the floor—along with packing tape, scissors, and bits of wire from previously held blanket corners. Lunch plates. Bread crust. At least there is no popcorn.
The whole thing is enough to give me a migraine. At moments such as these I really admire those parents who embrace this mess as part of childhood, pleased that their children were able to form fond memories of their youth–when they ate lunch in the tent-city sized fort downstairs. I wish I were more like them. I give myself a mental pat on the back for allowing only Good Mom to speak, although now that the children are gone, Controlling Woman is back and has a headache. I’m trying to channel the patience of Job, but it’s difficult. Perhaps I should build the fort back up and watch a movie.
Rachel Vidoni is a freelance writer and mediocre mom at best, as evidenced by the controlling woman that lives inside her head. If you’d like to tune in to read about her latest life mistakes or feel better about your own parenting skills, visit her blog at East Coast Musings.