It was a typical day in my chaotic household. My one-year-old was fighting an ear infection while my three-year-old had been fighting his nap. My nanny was keeping me up-to-date via text while I was at work. She let me know that today my oldest had actually gone down for a solid two hours. Quiet, no screaming. “AWESOME!!!” I texted back, with an aggressive amount of exclamation points and some clapping emojis. This was great news.
Or so we thought.
It was beyond anything I could have comprehended that one child could do.
I got home from work around 6:00 and out of his room my excited toddler squealed, “Mommy, mommy…come here I want to show you something!” My nanny’s face was white and full of dread. She looked at me like she had the weight of the world on her shoulders. I asked her “What happened?” And she just shook her head as if to say, “I have no words for what you’re about to see.” I wasn’t sure what I was walking into, but I knew it wasn’t good.
Now, to set the stage a little, we had just moved into our new house only three weeks prior. My son’s room had a fresh coat of paint, new carpet, a recently assembled Ikea dresser and a new big boy bed with a slide that my husband and I debated whether or not was our worst parenting decision to date. It was downright Pinterest-worthy, I mean as far as things matched and were new. But when I walked into his room, I saw what can only be described as a massacre of epic proportions.
Everywhere I looked there was black marker. He had drawn all over his bed, his walls, the carpet, his toy chest, his curtains, his dresser, even his nightlight for goodness sakes. He left no stone unturned or wall unscribbled. It was beyond anything I could have comprehended that one child could do. And the level of detail? It was unfathomable. He got in every crevice of his bunk bed. I mean, he had spent two full hours doing this. The white bed that we had purchased was now practically black. My husband and I still say that we had never seen that level of focus and attention from him up until that point.
I am a woman of many words, but right then, I had no idea what to say. I was angry and confused and unsure of how to reprimand him. Do I scream? How do I let him know how terrible an action this was to do? I looked at his face and my heart sunk. He was SO PROUD. He loved what he had done and genuinely thought I would too. At that point, I took a deep breath and said, “This is not okay, we do not draw on our walls or bed. I need you to help me clean this up.”
While he ran to get paper towels, I googled furiously “how to get marker out of everything.” Before cleaning I snapped some quick pics to send to my husband at work because words just couldn’t describe it. And I didn’t want to try. I called my mother, too. And after she laughed at my predicament she also gave some great advice. It turns out that nail polish remover and hair spray were the big recommendations. So I started there. Nail polish remover was doing a decent job at removing the marker but it was also removing the new paint. Oh well — I guess it’s the lesser of two evils.
And my son? He handed me paper towels as he too scrubbed his hardest to try and get the marker off of his slide. Then he turned to me and said, “Mom, this is hard.” I let him scrub for another 30 minutes after realizing that the fumes from the nail polish were making me light-headed, so I told him he should probably leave the room.
My nanny shook her head as if to say, “I have no words for what you’re about to see.” I wasn’t sure what I was walking into, but I knew it wasn’t good.
As for what I learned? Well, first off that if you hire movers you should make sure they don’t put a box you’re not aware of in your kids’ closet that has a black Sharpie in it. Whoopsie.
But also, that I didn’t need to scream at him to get my point across. I mean, I wanted to scream. And there have been plenty of times when I have screamed. But in this moment, I took a deep breath and chose differently. I can’t say why I did this, maybe because it was the most f-d up thing he had done to date, and I needed to gather my thoughts? Or that I had somehow surpassed the screaming level into utter disbelief? Not sure. But I did realize that he didn’t do it maliciously or to disobey some rule I had set. He did it because he thought I would like it.
Don’t get me wrong, he knew I was angry. But having him help me clean, and talking calmly about how upset it made me, seemed to actually get through to him better. And I was grateful for that.
You may be wondering if I got all of the Sharpie out? Nope. I’d say we’re at a solid 75% and not sure we’re going to improve more than that. It took me hours to get to that point, and I’m tired. Plus, I’m not really sure he deserves to have the room the way it was pre-Sharpie. I mean, he literally made this bed (with black marker)…so I think he should lie in it.
At least until I can trust him with a paintbrush.