Monday, March 2, 2009
Lessons from the Top of the Stairs
I’m sitting not on a sidewalk, but at the top of the stairs at my daughter’s house, looking into my grandkids’ room. It’s mostly, yet, my grandson’s room because he has been in possession of it for 42 months and baby sister Ione is a recent interloper. Her crib faces his bed, and she is trying to tune into his very loud rendition of Virginia Lee Burton’s wonderful The Little House (sadly surrounded by encroaching city and then happily rescued) while fighting sleep.
I am in my stair-top role as “guardian angel.” What that means is I’m here to keep Maddox in bed (today) or on a pile of comforters on his floor (most days) until he calms down and falls asleep for a nap. He doesn’t really buy the guardian angel bit; he’s guessed my real purpose and so sometimes throws horrendous three-year-old faces in my direction, but this afternoon it’s silliness and gab coming my way, which means sleep is even further afield.
Maddox’s room is, he acknowledges, a mess—“and that makes Mommy sad.” There are red plastic storage tubs in and out of boxes along the wall to hold the toys that are now spread across the floor so that it’s tiptoeing through the pieces to move anywhere. (One of his favorite games is “garbage man”: pouring all the little cars and pieces noisily from one tub to another. Another game is to mount the boxes that hold the tubs to build a castle for his sister and more importantly for Princess Fiona, who, I gather, is an amalgam of all the pretty women he sees in his world.)
But this afternoon Maddox has been Mr. Finder, searching for the Lost Boys and Wendy and Michael and John. He has along his Bob the Builder battery-operated power saw in case he runs into Captain Hook, in which case (please don’t listen, Mom), he will take Hook out.
When Maddox was born, his mom was careful not to force a gender role on him, and he’s still not allowed toy guns or superhero toys, but nature pushes nurture, and he makes do. It is 6-month-old Ione, aka Sweet Pea, who observes calmly and stoically with just a tad quizzical and disapproving little girl intensity.
She’s asleep now. Maddox isn’t, but he is reading a little more quietly. Their Dad’s IPOD is playing selections that range from hip hop and reggae to my preferred blues, folk and country. A wooden pirate ship is sailing across the floor. It will have to navigate around a stuffed dog, nose down; a tipped-over fire house; several blankets including the indispensable Mr. Stripey; two pillows; three medium size trucks; a play camera; a racing helmet; blocks, socks, mittens, small parts, and books, a rubber tiger, a soccer ball, my jacket (how did that get there??), and much, much, more. On the walls are Maddox’s art framed in blue paper borders and an overhead light that is waiting for darkness to shine planets and stars across the universe of ceiling and walls.
Any reasonable person would find this room a disaster, but kids, bless them, are not reasonable people, and disasters are to a degree largely in the eyes of the beholders. Lessons learned may be the same. Maddox’s room may teach that it takes patience to raise children…but I think it also illustrates the wonderful ability of a three-year-old to make order from whatever chaos surrounds him.
PS This post is in response to the "What I learned from..." contest at Middle Zone Musings.com that runs through March 8.