Life lessons from comforters on the floor

Most mornings the twins wake up to their sunshine/birdie alarm clock, spend a bit of time upstairs playing, and then come downstairs. When they arrive in the kitchen I’m often there making a pot of tea, or maybe still in my room checking my schedule, or just possibly still asleep in bed, depending on how late I was working the previous night, or how late I was up due to having gotten stuck in my insomniac mode.

This morning I woke up feeling reasonably rested and with dreams still rolling by inside my head. That happens when I’ve slept well, not having woken up 3 or more times in the night. I sat up, still half in my dream (which of course I can’t remember at the moment), pleased to discover that I felt like I’d slept.

*thump*

I wondered what that had been. I got up, went out into the kitchen. Then I heard crying over the monitor, and went upstairs to investigate. Emily and Joanna met me at the top of the stairs, tears spilling onto Emily’s cheeks. She had fallen out of Joanna’s bed. I hugged her, and then moved toward the bathroom, beyond which is their room.

In their room, the comforters were on the floor, along with the usual pile of pj’s and clothes and stuffies. Ted and I both regularly get super frustrated at the state of our house. Any parent will be able to relate to the sheer volume of hours it takes to clean up and put away the sheer volume of stuff which kids can at light-speed scatter across all available surfaces in the house, but which apparently gains 10,000 pounds when they are asked to put it all away.

The state of the house causes my inner child distress, and when I get distressed I tend to default to getting critical and angry in response to my distress. And then, if I don’t catch myself, I bark at the kids, which upsets them; and then if we get the cleaning done it’s in conflict and sadness. It doesn’t leave any of us feeling good.

Sometimes, though, I manage to do my inner work fast enough to intervene in that cycle, and get to a place where I can be productive and playful, instead of pissed off and punitive.

This morning I caught myself. It helped that I had gotten enough sleep last night. It helped that Ted and I are moving toward a kinder and smarter schedule, and I am feeling more hope these days. It helped that I’ve had a couple of therapy sessions lately in which the necessity for self-care (for me and others to do) is up in my conscious mind. I was able to offer that scared and upset part of myself comfort, to direct my attention inwardly instead of projecting it out.

I asked the kids if they could put their comforters on their beds. Emily lifted a corner of hers and desultorily waved it at her bed. That was the moment when I could have slipped into drill-sergeant mode.

“Bunch it up,” I said, lightly. “Bunch it! Make a big pile!”

She grinned and started bunching. Joanna giggled.

“Then you’ll be able to pick it all up,” I explained. “Joanna, can you help Emily?”

Joanna and Emily pushed and shoved and bunched, laughing as they did so. They got the comforter pushed up next to the bed, in a more compact shape.

“Heave!” I cried. “Shove it up there! Heave!”

“Hoove!” they replied.

“Heave!”

“Hoove!”

We were all laughing. They got the comforter up on the bed. Then they went to do Joanna’s. There was more heaving and hooving and giggling.

Emily landed on her butt.

“My laughing fell me over!”

While were on a roll, I asked them to put all the pjs that were on the floor on a bed. They started picking them up.

“Fling!” said Emily, tossing a top onto the bed. I laughed.

Then I asked Joanna to put the stuffies away, and Emily to put clothes in their dresser drawers. I coached them to stuff the clothes in so they could close the drawers. They hung dresses up. Emily proudly showed me a button she’d buttoned on one dress. They got so much done! I let go all the need for the comforter to be neatly spread across the bed, for the clothes to be folded before they were put away, for the clothes to go in the right drawers. And now their room is much neater. And they were proud of themselves. And we were all happy.

As the months go by we’ll refine techniques. But the process is more important than the result. I want to remember this positive experience. That’s why I’m writing it down.

Life can be so hard. So full, so complicated. So many things to deal with, from the tiny to the life-alteringly huge. But in the midst of all that, if I can cultivate kindness and love for myself, for my overwhelmed inner child, it’s much more possible to express it to others, most especially my children.

Life lessons. Profundities can be found in all sorts of places from the domestic to the world stage.

Edited to add:  one of my college friends is visiting, staying in our guest room. Just now Joanna and Emily earnestly asked her, “Do you want to see my room? It’s all clean!”

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