Apparently, my beautiful, brilliant, and talented daughter has inherited my genetic disposition toward slovenliness--and she has taken it to an all new level.
As a baby, this girl would not allow any toy, blanket, or even the tiniest stuffed animal in her bed. We'd put her down in her crib, and she'd toss everything out before laying down and promptly going to sleep. This need for a pristine sleep environment continued for years, even after she switched to a big girl loft bed. It was kind of endearing.
But lately, she started to keep a giant Pooh bear plus a couple of other smaller stuffed animals near her at night. She'd cover them up with a blanket, and sometimes she'd go to sleep on top of the lump. Gradually, a few more animals joined them, and the bed tumor grew. It became less endearing.
Meanwhile, I had been making a gradual attempt to organize and de-clutter the kids' bedrooms. I sorted through drawers, filling bags with too-small pants to give away or too-stretched out tops to toss in the trash. I picked up tiny Polly Pocket shoes and Zip-Locked™ them with Polly Pocket outfits and Polly Pocket purses. I filled up two bins with current-age-appropriate books, and packed up a bag full of If You Give A Mouse a Muffin-type books for Salvation Army. I was feeling good about M. Peevie's room: it was more neat and organized than it had been in months, and possibly years.
Then we had a set-back. I was alarmed to notice that the lump had metastacized to the point that there was only a sliver of bed available for M. Peevie to sleep on. The situation required drastic and immediate measures.
"M. Peevie," I said, getting out my stern voice and reaching for the blanket. "We have got to make this bed lump smaller, or pretty soon there won't even be room for you in your bed. What the heck is under here, anyway?"
"No, mom!" M. Peevie said with a tiny bit of hysteria in her voice, "Don't take away the blanket! I like having my things in bed with me. It helps me feel safe."
"It must be done, darling," I said grimly, and as M. Peevie screamed, "Nooooooo!", I pulled the blanket away from the HUGE PILE OF RANDOM CRAP that filled her bed. My jaw hit the floor in astonishment.
"M.P.," I hollered, "What is going on here?"
She started bawling. "I'm sorry!" she wailed. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry!"
I began to grab stuff and toss it onto the floor. It wasn't just stuffed animals and dolls under the blanket. It was like Pod and Homily and little Arrietty and all their cousins had moved in: scraps of notebook paper, markers, paper clips, torn-out pages from catalogs, a giant wad of (unused) toilet paper, doll clothes, Woody's cowboy hat, an entire collection of Junie B. Jones books, a three-foot long tree branch, socks, a jacket, and enough other random shit to fill two 30-gallon plastic bins.
"Stop crying!" I yelled, putting my excellent parenting skills to work. "Just get all this crap out of this bed RIGHT NOW!"
M. Peevie climbed up into the loft and started tossing things out one by one, still sobbing, her eyes getting redder and puffier by the second.
"Why did you put all this crap in your bed, M.?" I asked, in a Guantanamo kind of way. "What were you thinking?"
"It helps me feel safe," she said between sobs.
"No, it doesn't," I said harshly . "No way. That's not it. I'm so angry at you, M. P.! I spent hours cleaning and organizing your room, and now you've turned your bed into a giant dump!"
Again with the primo parenting skills. M. Peevie just cried harder, picked up a Chinese restaurant menu, and tossed it over the edge of the bed. I watched it flutter to the floor, and decided that I needed a parental time-out. Mr. Peevie took over and I took my angry, lame-parenting self out of there before I did more damage.
After about 30 minutes, I went back in. M. Peevie looked at me sadly from red, puffy eyes, and I gingerly stepped through the landfill that covered her carpet to stand next to her bed. "I'm sorry, Mommy," she said. "I'm sorry I'm so bad."
Geez. Shoot me through the heart, already.
"M. Peevie, you are not bad," I started. "I'm the one that behaved badly. I raised my voice and spoke very harshly to you. I'm very sorry." I told her that we'd take some time the next day to clean up the mess and to talk about the problem.
"We'll figure it out together," I told her. "We'll talk about it, and we'll clean up the mess and we'll figure out how to help you not do it again, OK?"
"OK, Mommy," she said. She held up her arms for a hug, and I gave thanks that this child, like most children, was so resilient and forgiving.
Tune in tomorrow for Landfill, Part Two.