In case you missed it, you can find Landfill, Part One here.
The next day, M. Peevie and I set to work cleaning up the landfill that had somehow accumulated in her loft bed. We got some empty bins from the basement, set up a trash can nearby, and started sorting and tossing. Mostly sorting, because every time I tried to toss something into the trash, M. Peevie would retrieve it and tell me why it had particular sentimental value to her.
"I have to keep these pages from the Target catalog, Mom," she told me seriously. "I need to show Daddy what I want for Christmas."
I tried to throw out a crumpled, blank piece of notebook paper, but M.P. objected. "Mom, I might need that for drawing," she said. Because we don't have 30 reams of notebook paper elsewhere in the house.
"How about this giant wad of toilet paper?" I asked her. "Can we throw this out?"
She looked at me and knit her eyebrows together in concern for my mortal soul. "That would be wasteful," she said. "I have it in my bed in case I need to blow my nose."
"A thousand times?" I wanted to ask, but instead I just set it aside for secret disposal later on. Used wrapping paper, bits of ribbon and string, a lipgloss with no lid, the stretchy strap from a pair of swim goggles, mittens, a plastic stadium seat cushion, marbles, and assorted office supplies all eventually reached their appropriate bin; and for some reason I kept thinking about homeless people and shopping carts.
While we cleaned and sorted, we talked. "So what's this all about, M. Peevie?" I asked her. "Why are you hoarding all this stuff in your bed?"
"I don't know," she said sadly, and then she added, "Well, I do know, but you didn't believe me when I told you." Um, ouch. Bad, bad mommy.
"Uh, yeah, about that," I said. "Tell me again why you like to keep tons of stuff in your bed, and this time I'll listen, and I promise I won't get mad."
"It's because I feel safer when I'm near my things," she said. "I don't feel safe when you're not with me." This time, instead of invalidating her feelings and rejecting her reasoning, I listened, and asked her a few questions. In the end, we agreed that she'd keep four or five stuffed animals in her bed, but that everything else would be put back into its place before bedtime.
That night when I went in to say goodnight, M. Peevie was sitting up in her loft like a princess, leaning against her blanket-covered lump of stuffed animals. "Hey, M.," I said, "I'm glad we had our little talk this morning. I'm glad we were able to figure out..." I paused because I noticed that the bed tumor seemed bigger than five stuffed animals, and also M. Peevie seemed to be suspiciously nonchalant as she struck a protective pose in front of it.
"M.P.," I said. "Is there something you want to tell me?"
Her eyes got all big and innocent--like that's not a total giveaway. "No, mom," she said.
"M., I'd like to see what animals you have under the blanket," I said firmly. She started to cry. I pulled back the blanket to find ANOTHER HUGE PILE OF CRAP. I am not even kidding. Apparently, I need to get the psychiatrist on speed dial.
The story hasn't ended yet. I did a slightly better job of parenting in that frustrating moment than I had the night before, and we talked as we dumped the landfill over the bed rails. "M. Peevie," I said, "I have to tell you: I have no idea what's going on here or how to help you. But we are going to keep on working on this until we figure it out. I promise that I'm not going to scream at you about it any more. Can you promise me that you'll try to do better at not piling crap in your bed?"
She agreed. Since then, every night she swears there's nothing in her bed that doesn't belong, and every night I check and find a pile of crap. The piles are getting smaller and smaller. Last night it was just a couple of books, some scraps of paper, a medieval princess toy, some pennies, and a few other miscellaneous items.
"Am I doing better, Mommy?" she asked me plaintively.
My amateur psychological analysis tells me that her fear and obsession are indications that she's not getting what she needs from me in terms of comfort and security. I might need some parenting help with this one, but for the moment, I'm going to try more listening and cuddling before bedtime.
Which totally sucks, because that is seriously going to cut into my TV watching and wine drinking time. Sigh. I can sacrifice David Boreanaz and the Prison Break guys for the sake of better parenting, I suppose--but this whole landfill-in-the-bed scenario better be resolved before January 11, 2009.
I'm just sayin'.