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 that runs through March 8.


  1. Very intriguing slice of the life that surrounds you, Terro. Thanks for sharing that final lesson, though; one I think we all need to re-learn every now and again, don'cha think?

    Tip o' the hat to ya!

  2. Navigating chaos is an essential skill these days. The twentieth century focused on getting more information so we can make better decisions. This century we discovered we cannot get "all" the information. The supply is limitless, but our capacity is not.

    We have to navigate the flood of information streaming at us and make the best decisions we can with the small amount of information we can process.

  3. Luke, Thanks for your insight. You've propelled my observation into a definite, and I think accurate, description of today's challenges.

  4. Terro, you have such a gift for description! I can clearly see, hear, and feel as though I were sitting next to you on those stairs.(Thanks for stopping by my blog! )

  5. Thanks for a beautiful story of nap time. I haven't been a guardian angel for while, but the memories are very clear.

  6. Thanks, Linda, for the compliment, and Kazari, I feel so lucky to close to my grandchildren now and live through these wonderful early years with them.

  7. Ahh -- I recognized the stair-top role right off. Did it with my kids and there's. I love the start of your last paragraph -- before the P.S. Any reasonable person would... but kids, bless them, are not reasonable people...

    I also quite liked the snippet of who you are next to your picture. And can relate to...well, pretty much all of it except the pet name from hubby. :) Congrats on your win...

    Barb Hartsook

  8. Thanks, Barb. I visited your wonderful blog, Over Coffee..., and want to offer congratulations to you for your beautiful painting that took first place in the Innographx Forum. I'm an inveterate doodler, but much as I'd love to really draw and paint, I find I create better pictures with words.

    PS...Please don't think badly of my husband. "Old bag" is an old joke. He had it inscribed on my 50th birthday cake (years ago) and was roundly told off by the supermarket clerk when he went through the check out. Not everyone gets his sense of humor.

  9. Hahaha -- not thinking badly of him in the least. I laughed and thought back over our years, to the fun and funny names my hubby and I have had for each other. Some I've had to squash under foot! (We laugh a lot in this family too.)

    No, what I liked about his pet name for you is how you've filled it. With new tricks. I love that!

    Thanks so much for visiting Over Coffee... and just so you know, doodling is as art form! :) Like journaling -- well, it is journaling of a sort -- it jumpstarts my brain.

    I'm going to follow you... your writing delights me.