Oh, What a Mess!

Toddlers and Preschoolers can be the sweetest, most adorable things on earth. Nothing can compare to a hug from a small, squirmy body. Watching them run across the grass is poetry in motion. Comic poetry, but poetry nonetheless.  What is astonishing is how fast they can go from delightful to the most destructive force on earth.  I have been privileged to be the mother of 10 such children. Some have been tornados on wheels, others have been a sudden wind storm whose destruction comes and goes in a moment. For my tornados, some days the only thing that saved them was their innocent smile.

One of the challenges of being a homeschool mom is what to do with the tornados and wind storms while we are schooling our other children. What to do to keep these tornados at bay is the subject of another article. My point today is to tell my tales of woe so that you can look at your own storms and count your blessings, or commiserate, as the case may be. I also want you know that your tornados do grow up and find other things to do.

My oldest daughter was a challenge. Once she got an idea in her head, it was there until she accomplished the deed. Like the time she decided she wanted a graham cracker, but couldn’t get the box open.  So she set the box on the counter and went and got a hammer. The sad part is she missed the box at least once and hit the ceramic flour container also on the counter.  Unhappily, neither one survived the experience.

Another time I let her play with some old make up while she was in the bath tub. What was I thinking? She covered herself, including her hair and the entire tub in waterproof lipstick. By the way, the only thing that cleans up waterproof make-up is Dawn soap. Just so you know. 

My son Ben was an endearing toddler, never going through the terrible 2’s, (he saved those until he was 12!) but he was a wonder at making messes. I was working in the kitchen one day with Ben at my feet, playing with the pots and pans. There was a commotion in another room and I ran to see what it was. I was gone less than 2 minutes, but he found the time to dump an entire gallon of oil all over the floor and was in the process of adding a container of oatmeal to the mess. My first thought was “How in the world do I clean this up?” I won’t tell you my second.

Ben was not finished with his tornado. We lived in a small duplex at the time and did not have a pantry. We purchased a gallon size bottle of pancake syrup, but had no place to put it. My husband thought it should go behind the door in the laundry room, which also served as our mud room. I vetoed the idea saying it was too tempting for our tornado. He said Ben needed to learn not to get into things and besides, he can’t possibly open the bottle. Famous last words! Ben not only found the bottle and managed to get the lid off, but he poured the bottle everywhere. The ironic thing was most of the bottle ended up in his dad’s military jump boots. Needless to say, we never kept bottles down where toddlers could reach them again.

A different wind storm in my family was my daughter Katie. She was very easy to get along with and she usually stayed with me so she rarely was a mess maker. Except the time she climbed up on the kitchen counter and completely covered herself in Crisco. She was wearing a Onesie so she had plenty of surface area to cover. I was use to messes by this time, so I took a picture to torture her with as a teenager (it is on the wall in our living room) and cleaned up the mess.  I was learning. Side note- Dawn works with Crisco too.

Another picture on the wall is one of my son Justin. It’s of the time he got into the drawers in the kitchen, emptying every last thing. That wasn’t enough of a mess so he proceeded to empty all the boxes of baggies. There were over 500 bags of various sorts all over the place. The picture shows him surrounded by baggies and various kitchen items. 

When he was a little older, we were selling our house. I was in the middle of a painting touch up (black sharpie marker on a freshly painted wall) when a prospective buyer called to say they were coming. Justin decided I needed help and started to carry a full bucket of paint for me. Needless to say he didn’t get far. When he dropped it, it bounced, hit the wall and off popped the lid. ¾ of the gallon spilt before I could get to it. That was a fun mess to clean out of carpet. But I did, and I got it up before the buyer got there. They didn’t buy the house though. I think they were leery of the squishy wet spot on the carpet.  

I believe these toddler storms were to prepare me for my worst tornado. Joseph was a tornado from the moment he realized he could move from one place to another. He was scooting around on the floor at 4 months, crawling at 5 and walking around furniture at 6. He was a flying menace by the time he was 9 months old. You could not turn your back on Joey for a moment.  At 12 months he could open doors and escape outside.  Not a good idea in the middle of winter in Alaska.  It took him a week to figure out how the safety door knobs worked. He poured honey all over the dog (dog #2 didn’t mind at all, she licked it all off, but the dog still needed a bath), could take apart anything that was left in his reach and loved to get in the fridge and drop eggs everywhere. The one mess that stands out in my mind is when he emptied the fridge. I came home to find that he had taken everything he could reach out of the fridge and made a trail through the kitchen, dining room and up the stairs. I don’t know if he was playing Hansel and Gretel or what. He wasn’t able to tell me. Nor were his siblings who were supposed to be watching him. 

I love toddlers. My youngest has moved on into the preschool stage. It’s a little sad. I’ve had a toddler for 26 years and I will miss it. But I can say that I am looking forward to a tornado free life without the challenge of figuring out how to clean up remarkable messes. Well, at least I think I am. If you have a harrowing story about your toddler/preschooler and would like to share it Click Here.