“My mom’s crazy.”

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The look on his face when I told him I knew what his friend had suggested.

Silas and his friend made a colossal mess in the kids’ room the other day. They threw four shelves’ worth of books on the floor, dollhouse furniture, all of the stuffed animals, and even all of Petra’s clothes, pulled from her drawers. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, even when Silas was a toddler. It looked like four two-year-olds (with a stepladder) had been at work in there, not two four-year-olds.

I was, honestly, flabbergasted. And angry. I’m not super into the whole baby thing, and I’m so excited when my kids act like human people that you can take places and have a conversation with. When they regress, even though I know it’s normal, I can’t stand it. I also am aware that kids make messes, but the mess that comes out of normal play is one thing. This was something quite different. And they were being mean to Petra as part of it–first excluding her (and I didn’t make them let her play with them, because I think they should be allowed to not have her with them sometimes), and then calling her up to “play with them” so that she would see that her clothes were all over the place. Not cool.

They didn’t get punished, exactly. I just told them, “Nothing fun is going to happen today until this is cleaned up. It has to look like I cleaned it.”

I supervised them putting away Petra’s clothes, to ensure that they were nicely folded and in the right places.

And then I went about my business. They mostly avoided me, which was fine (and probably smart). Over the next six hours, anytime they would ask for something that was not, strictly speaking, necessary, I just said, “I don’t know if I can do that yet. Is the room cleaned up?” I gave them lunch, of course, and a snack, but not the kinds of fun snacks that I usually make. A trip to the library or playground was on the original plan for the day; obviously, that went out the window. Likewise, TV time. And me reading to them. And letting them play in the pool. All of those things were just NOPE.

They worked on it, little by little, and then played and undid their progress.

Spoiler alert: By the time the friend’s dad came to get him, the room was impressively clean. Their active working time was probably about 45 minutes.

So, I learned that Silas can fold clothes pretty well. And that he is capable of cleaning a room well, and putting things actually where they belong. Miraculous, really.

But this was the best:

About halfway through the afternoon, before I told them they had to stop and have their rest time, I heard the friend suggest something like, “Let’s trick your mom by hiding this stuff under the bed so we don’t have to clean it up.” He said it like, “Won’t this be funny?” more than “I want to get out of doing this,” because he’s the kind of kid who has impulses that he thinks are funny, but is generally a good, if rather silly, kid. Incidentally, it’s this kind of impulse (from him or from Silas) that probably led to the situation in the first place.

And Silas said, “My mom’s crazy. Don’t even try it.”

And they didn’t.

Initially, I was a bit offended. Who is he calling crazy? And if I am, whose fault is that? But when I thought about it later, I realized, that is exactly how I want my kids to see me. More importantly, that’s how I want them to describe me to their friends. I want Silas to say that phrase a thousand times in the next decade, until it just appears at his lips the moment he needs it.

Hey, Silas, let’s chase your sister with sticks.

My mom’s crazy. Don’t even try it.

Hey, Silas, let’s tear up little pieces of paper and play confetti party in your room.

My mom’s crazy. Don’t even try it.

Hey, Silas, let’s steal your mom’s credit card and take the Greyhound to Vegas.

My mom’s crazy. Don’t even try it.

It could serve him well to have a crazy mom.

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