Sunday, February 8, 2009
The Mysterious Miss Wiggles
Weekends are often stressful affairs in their own right at my house. After five working days dealing with the usual affairs of life many weekends are just a continuation of other normal work week activities along with trying to get things done that can only be accomplished on Saturday and Sunday. Running the kids around to their activities, getting needed maintenance on the cars, washing mountains of dirty clothes, and cleaning the house and yard take up much of weekend time. During these stressful weekends everyone in the family is pressed into service with the understanding that once the critical objectives are at least met time will be spent on other more enjoyable activities. The only problem holding true to the critical objectives is when the children are involved.
Just a few weeks ago was one of those stressful weekends with the bathrooms, as far as Dragonwife was concerned, hazardous toxic waste dumps. Mountains of smelly laundry were piled high in the hallway next the washer and dryer needing to be done. Of special concern to my wife were the dust stalactites hanging from the ceiling fan blades that she insisted needed to be cleaned. Being honest here but I will have to admit that my motivation that Saturday morning was not at the highest level. The bathrooms, in my opinion, were not as dangerous as my wife suggested. At the hospital where I work I'm on the HAZMAT team and while I wouldn’t have eaten off the bathroom floor there wasn’t any green slime visibly moving anywhere although that could not have been said for some dark green items of laundry slowly crawling away from the rest of the piles. As for the dust stalactites hanging from the blades of the ceiling fans I admit that they needed to be removed.
With the benefit of having my radio tuned into the Saturday morning NPR shows my duties were passing quickly and as far as cleaning can be enjoyable I was having a pretty good time. During this time I was multitasking the various chores all across the house since Dragonwife had gone on the monthly Sam’s Club run to stock up on groceries. Since one of the darkest pits in Hell must surely be having to spend eternity in a crowded Sam’s Club I felt that I was getting the better end of the Saturday chores right then. The kids had long since finished what they had to do and were either playing the guitar, in the case of my son, or watching SpongeBob which usually never fails to complete enthrall my daughter. That is until that particular Saturday.
After I finished the cleaning of the smaller of our two bathrooms I moved the cleaning stuff into the master bathroom and started cleaning the invisible soap scum off the walls of the shower stall. There are two things I find intensely curious about soap scum. One, I can almost never see the offending substance although my wife assures me it covers the walls of the shower stall. Two, my wife’s intense and personal dislike of the substance that at times sort of scares me. Even though I question the very existence of the substance most of the time I felt it was my husbandly duty to do my best to save my wife the shock of finding it still on the walls when she got back. Plus, carefully wiping the shower stall walls would save me the hassle of hearing her complain (nag) about how scummy and disgusting the bathroom still looked. It was then that Miss Wiggles decided to join me while I was working.
“Daddy, what are you doing?” My daughter asked me standing in the doorway.
“I’m just cleaning the shower sweetie.” I said as I continued to wipe down the walls.
“But I don’t see anything on the walls except the stuff you are spraying on them.”
It was there I froze, I had an independent confirmation that the whole soap scum issue might reside in my wife’s brain. But just to be safe I continued to clean since discretion is always the better part of valor where wives are concerned.
“Daddy, I’m going to help you with the cleaning.” Miss Wiggles moved inside the bathroom picked up another rag and began wiping the bathtub that is right beside the shower stall I was cleaning. My daughter wanted to clean and I was cool with that, grateful that at her early age she still wanted to help. As opposed to my son who often when instructed to pick up and organize all the assorted detritus on the floor of his room will just toss it on his bed and cover it with his bedspread. My son has long since mastered the out of sight, out of mind approach to cleaning.
Still though Wiggles’ enthusiasm and honest desire to help is often at odds with her actually skills. So I wasn’t surprised to see a few minutes later that she had spilled the bottle of cleaner in the bathtub making a bigger mess than what was there originally. After she and I cleaned it up she gave up on helping and drifted back to the television.
What followed after that was a series of interruptions that at first were just honest attempts on the part of Miss Wiggles to do something on her own but since SpongeBob had lost its appeal that day these interruptions soon became almost deliberate attempts to draw my attention away from my chores. I got pulled away as pots and pans began crashing from cabinets as Wiggles went looking for something in the kitchen. A few minutes later Wiggles sheepishly came and told me she had spilled fruit juice on the coffee table and the carpet. Right after that I had to chase the dog down after it had snatched the television remote for the purpose using it for a chew toy. The biggest issue was removing my daughter from my son’s room after she had invaded his inner sanctum because she was bored. After each interruption I would tell my daughter she needed to listen to daddy and that we would do something fun once I was through.
I handled all theses disturbances and few other pretty well although my frustration level was rising. After separating my son and daughter then removing her from his room there was period of time where things calmed down enough for me to start back to work. What finally derailed my cool and wise fatherly demeanor though was seeing that my daughter had come back into the bedroom, climbed on top of my bed and was using it for a trampoline. Normally, that alone wouldn’t have fazed me in the least but at that time I had about four loads of clean laundry folded on that bed and Miss Wiggles jumping had utterly destroyed my neat and organized stacks sending most of the clothes to the floor below.
I was finding difficult to catch Wiggles who had built up some serious inertia bouncing all over the bed enjoying my efforts trying to stop her. Wiggles eventually just jumped into my arms oblivious to the work she had destroyed. Putting her on the floor next the bed standing up I bent down on my knees to have a little “coming to Jesus” talk with her like my grandmother often had with her grandchildren.
“Young lady,” I began. “How many times have I told you that daddy had stuff to do and that you would have to let me finish?”
My daughter gave no answer; instead she dissolved into a fit of cute but irritating giggles. Asking the question again, which I did, was both a waste of time and energy since it just precipitated a batch of even more incoherent giggles. All things considered I’m a fairly good dad able to handle most of the things my kids have thrown at me. However, that time I was at a complete loss to deal with events and to this day I don’t know where in the dark recesses of my mind my next words came from.
“Listen young lady, right now you belong to me and you will pay attention to what I have to say.”
One of the things I love about my daughter is the energy and freshness she brings to everyday life. She has never met a stranger, greets each day with hope and optimism, and looks at everything as an adventure as only a child can. But there are times that I often wonder that at her inner core if she is actually an old soul who has wandered this world far longer than I can imagine. Many times she has surprised by wife and me with an insight on some matter that simply shouldn’t be within the understanding of someone so young. This was another of those times because just as soon as my last words left my mouth I knew I had made a mistake.
My daughter’s giggling abruptly ended and her smiling face was replaced with a look of mild but tired amusement parents often give their children when they say something that makes no sense. A few seconds ticked by and I could almost see this gathering storm of dark clouds over my daughter’s head as forces I can’t imagine struggled to be reined in with her trying to figure out a way to communicate with the tall but very foolish and presumptuous mortal who just happened to be her father. She crossed her arms and raised one eyebrow I knew I was about to get an ear full.
“Daddy, you should know I belong to no one but myself.” With that she turned away from me in a dignified imperial manner and walked out of the room leaving me with my mouth hanging open, totally speechless and overwhelmed. To say all the frustrations I was feeling disappeared would be an understatement, my six year old daughter had just put me in my place letting me know that she fully understood she was a unique and free person in her own right.What does one do after such a brief but total trashing from a six year old child? I picked up and refolded all the clothes abandoning my other chores, then joined my daughter on the couch who had inserted a DVD in the player and was now watching Disney/Pixar’s “Cars” like nothing had happened.