Wednesday, January 15, 2014

How cluttered are your shelves?

I had spent all morning coaxing and coddling my three-year-old out of tantrums. Finally, he started rubbing his eyes and I knew the majority of today's behavior came from pure tiredness. So I said those three little words, the ones no preschooler ever wants to hear: 'clean your room". He went into a thundering rage, a truly spectacular tantrum complete with stomping, kicking, and throwing. I walked out to do some cleaning of my own, planning to check on him and put him down for a nap afterwards.

Thirty minutes later... I looked around his room and sighed. In thirty minutes he had accomplished absolutely nothing. Then his toy shelf caught my eye--not one single toy was in its proper place. There were toys on the shelf, but they were nowhere near being sorted.

 I went to the kitchen and fixed his lunch. I had him sit at his proper place at the table. I put his favorite lunch--a turkey sandwich--in front of him. He screamed with the power of an air horn and refused to calm down, immune to my attempts at soothing him. I was ready to give up, weary and out of patience. I lay him on his bed. Ready to leave the room in hopes of inducing a sweet slumber for him and a moment's rest for myself, I turned and bumped my knee into his bookshelf. Gazing down at what appeared to be the beginnings of a very nasty bruise, I saw that the shelf was in a state of complete deterioration, with piles of brightly colored books bearing worn covers stacked in piles every which way. If books could decompose, that would be the sight my eyes were resting on. I clenched my jaw with the grit and determination of a doctor performing a frontal lobotomy and immediately set to work. Joey, his densely lashed eyes wide in surprise, looked on in complete and utter silence. I pulled all the books off the shelf and alphabetized them. I re-shelved them properly. By the time I finished I had gained such momentum that I couldn't stop. I moved to the toy shelf with an air of satisfaction only a neat freak can understand. Once everything was in its place, I went to Joey, who was still watching me with suspicion, yet drowsy and hypnotized by the rhythmic movement of my hands in organizational action. I kissed him on the forehead. In a calm tone and with a renewed sense of self-control, he said politely, "Mommy, can I eat my sandwich now and then have quiet time?"

It is these moments that give me a purpose and a strong commitment to parenting. I couldn't help but wonder as I watched my preschooler eat his sandwich with the joyous aplomb that can only come from being three years old, is it the clutter in our lives that makes us grumpy? Is it our physical shelves or our emotional selves that need re-organizing? I demand to know your thoughts, dear reader: How do you clear your emotional clutter?