Monday, August 11, 2008

Summertime, and the livin' is easy...

I rarely offer helpful parenting suggestions, mostly because I suspect my readers know too much about me to take anything I say beyond “Buttered toast? Yes!” seriously. But here goes; if you need to buy a present for a two or three year-old, might I suggest some big lightweight scarves? I got Daughter some for Christmas the year she was two and she played with them a bit on Christmas day before lunging at a new present, which I can only assume was cat-related.

But in the following days, and months, long after the wind-up toys had been sprung and the small toys had been lost and the age-appropriate toys had been grown out of, the scarves abided. They were girl-wardrobe, and stuffed-animal wardrobe and pet-wardrobe; they were tents and casts for pretend broken legs and rivers for her finger-puppets and things to pitch at your mother when she was being especially annoying. In retrospect, they were the smartest things I ever bought her. Why do I bring up the scarves? Am I trying to burnish my own parental halo? No, and I’ll prove it by balancing the scarf-business by telling you that Daughter had an ice-cream sandwich for dinner two nights ago. No, I mention the scarves because they, and every other item of her childhood, are currently in active use in my living room.

Daughter went to a Montessori school early on, and was carefully inculcated into the idea of putting things back once you’re finished with them. Our house isn’t large, so I eagerly (less enlightened souls might say “Maniacally”) encouraged this behavior at home. When she doesn’t put things away, I trot out my worn and aged speech about respecting our things by treating them well, putting them where they belong, Mother gets weak and fretful when she can’t see the floor in your room, tra la la. And then came the move into the living room where, it has been noted, there isn’t any “Away” into which to put things.

For the first couple of weeks, I was the shouting micro-managing parent, pointing to different horizontal spaces and saying things like “Create a system! A system of…piles!” And then I grew very tired. It was hot, and every tool Consort used was loud or dust-generating. The air-compressor made a noise like thousand bullfrogs burping twelve times an hour. A pile of Barbie clothes stopped seeming so important. Then the Barbie clothes developed a satellite of paper dolls, which begat a construction of her wooden blocks (which had been my blocks and my mother’s blocks). I stepped over things, and I ignored. Once I choose to ignore, I am very good at it. Some times, I would walk into the living room and I would think “What a dreadful place. I wonder who lives here.” And I would go on ignoring.

The dining-room, rendered unusable by her mattress and dresser, generously donated its dining-room table chairs which, covered with a scarf, became a clubhouse for the pets. The dog would only go in if Daughter went in first and the cat would only go in if immobilized by another large scarf, but no matter. At last count, there at fifteen books of hers in various states of reading dotted around the room. Nearly all of her dress-up clothing is strewn about, in case she is walking between books and suddenly needs to become a hula dancer.

And I don’t care. It’s temporary and no one can say it isn’t generating creativity. There are daily productions for me to see which involve singing, dancing, light comedic patter and the liberal use of scarves. I can’t say as I am always up for an afternoon at the theater but -- as with certain little-theater performances of friends I have been forced to see over my lifetime -- I keep a pleasant smile on my face and use that time to make a grocery list. And, unlike the performances of friends, Daughter doesn’t make me get a drink with her afterwards and dissect her performance. She doesn’t need to hear what I thought of her; she knows she was fabulous.

Consort is now at the wallpaper stage of the renovation, which means we’re not too far from the end. He swears she’ll be back in her room this week, Friday at the latest. I, being of a less credulous mind, translate that to mean she’ll be back in her room next Thursday. Either way, house-as-playroom model will come to an end. There will be all sorts of new and organized places to put her things. We’ll blow the renovation-dust off the books and put them into their new bookshelves; the construction toys will be boxed up and put where they belong. The scarves will have their own scarf-spot. Our living room and dining-room will no longer resemble the inside of my daughter’s mind. I will be relieved, and I will be a little bit sad.


Blogger BiPolar Wife said...

My 12-year-old sits contentedly at night on our leather sofa, creating beautiful jewelry and after her shower, she sits back down in her comfy spot with a blanket and pillow, which is where I find her first thing in the morning when I get up.

Yep, I'll be sad, too, when school starts up and sleeping in her own bed will be something relegated to the disciplines of an actual routine, right up there with an actual (gasp) BEDTIME and the lack of unlimited popcicles all day long.

9:57 PM  
Blogger Dawn Maria said...

We have a fantastic dress up wardrobe in the playroom, which I nearly donated last year. My boys were 14 and 11 and I figured they were long finished with capes, swords and funny hats. Then my 14 year old freshman took TV production and suddenly we had a very busy prop department upstairs. Movies get made here weekly.

I have tossed the stuff that doesn't fit anyone anymore, but all the costumes (sorry, no scarves, but there is one sequin butterfly outfit) get used regularly.

You never know how or when imagination will appear. I'd be surprised if your living room ceased to be a favored venue for creativity.

8:12 PM  
Blogger shree said...

Belated Happy Birthday wishes ms cummings! wishing you the best of health and love for the year to come! God bless-Suganya

7:46 AM  
Blogger Miss Cavendish said...

Do some homes have playrooms? Our three wee ones have full run of the house (tall, skinny Italianate with appropriately sized tiny rooms) and so do their toys. Their father and I continually have "what were we thinking" moments--kind of like when we bought a white couch before having children.

8:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every single scarf I have has been used in this way, plus blankets and material scraps. the 'good' toys are usually discarded for cardboard, balloons fabric and a whole host of imaginative things. In fact, I just finished 'sewing' a blanket to the bunk bed to make a mock tipi, my girls are going through a native Indian phase.

Love your blog btw,
Thanks for the post!
Lune x

9:48 AM  
Blogger Firegirl said...

Two Part Comment:

If you can find non-skanky lingerie, they make bee-yoo-tee-full Princess dresses...

And this is completely random...apologies for hijacking...

I was tagged by another blogger and am sharing the wealth! I hope that you can play along, knowing that you are deep in Home Improvement Hell.

Here's how it works:

The Rules:
1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules to your blog.
3. Write 6 random things about yourself.
4. Tag 6 people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person you have tagged know by leaving a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is posted.

12:59 PM  

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