Earlier today, Eli broke the toilet seat off of the toilet. The older two were at school, and Eli apparently felt that mere toys were beneath his royal highness to play with. Only the toilet would do.
We went out immediately and purchased a new toilet seat (because...of course), but since installation skills are beyond my abilities, we had to wait until Daddy was home for the switch. I propped up the old toilet seat into a functional manner for the rest of the day.
(Hang with me, I promise this post is about more than just toilet seats.)
All was going fine until Miss Addison arrived home from school. We were all playing outside because this weather is gorgeous and we don't dare waste a single moment of it (hello, quickly approaching long winter). She needed to go potty, so I sent her into the house alone to take care of it-- completely forgetting about the non-secured toilet seat.
That is...until a few moments later, when Addison walked proudly out of the house wearing her school outfit, lovingly adorned by....the toilet seat worn around her neck like a necklace.
My face went pale and I had trouble swallowing. This is the sort of moment that makes me realize how completely unprepared I am for motherhood. (Is it too late to back out of it? No?)
She was beaming and patting her new accessory with joy, glancing around for no doubt whistles of approval and maybe even some clapping.
The way I see it, I had two choices of how to respond to my daughter in this moment.
1. Gasp in horror and YELL LOUDLY at her since this was clearly the grossest thing I had seen all week (and believe me, this beat out some doozies by her brothers and their overactive bowels...ok I'm sorry, I promise this post is about more than toilet seats and bowels.)
2. Recognize that she is extremely creative and can indeed make an accessory out of...anything. (I would say she made it look good too, but the truth is I blacked out a little bit and can't remember if it looked cute or not.)
I have been thinking about a lot about this lately. My children continue to leave me faced with many sticky situations. My first impulse is to yell and rush to clean up their mess with a HOW DARE THEY attitude. But the more and more I reflect on these situations after they occur, I am realizing how much more there is to these moments than simply something "gross that I have to clean up".
My children are intelligent, creative people, searching out so many things about life right now. It's up to me to respond and guide them in the right way. This is a huge responsibility...and one that I fail at more than I care to admit.
Don't get me wrong, when rules are broken, discipline is served. That's not what I'm talking about. This is about an overall attitude. An attitude of being willing to explore the "why did they really do this? Is there more to the story?"And talk through it with them to get to the bottom of the story instead of assuming ALL is known by first glance and by the extent of the mess. An attitude that I can't always admit to having, but one that I'm striving toward in my motherhood.
So today. Me. Deck. Addison....Toilet Seat. How did I respond?
There was definitely a gasp of horror. And a rush to help her take it off. (And a shudder for all eternity.)
But there wasn't loud yelling and lecturing about the GROSS MESS THAT I HAVE TO CLEAN UP. Because really I don't think she was trying to be gross. She was trying to make a necklace. (Sorry Addison, I don't think I'll be borrowing this one.) Honestly I don't remember a ton beyond that because I think I blacked out again until I got the toilet seat back into the bathroom.
We then had a new lesson, called "Toilet Seats Don't Make Cute Necklaces And Here's Why." (Chalk this up under "Sentences I never thought I'd say".) No discipline was served. We just talked about it. Because how could I punish her for something that I hadn't taken the time to teach her?
I've thought even more about this since the incident earlier today. I want to look at my children and see potential, not problems. I want to craft their genius the right direction, not destroy them through guilt and shame. I want my kids to feel like I am their listening ear, not a hammer waiting to strike down on them. And most of all, I want them to be met with love. Even if this is sometimes the love of discipline.
Toilet seat necklace- horrible gross thing? or expression of an eager 5-year-old's creativity? I think it was just the right mix of both. Taken away quickly. But acknowledged for the look she was trying to achieve. (an edgy porcelain sort of look)
Just so you know, I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing over here in this motherhood thing. I just take it one day at a time. One hour at a time. One broken toilet seat at a time. So to sum up- one giant party.