Friday, January 2, 2009


My daughter Elizabeth has many delightful attributes, but to date “helpful” has not been one of them.
Unlike her brother William (I raise a glass to the mother who doesn’t secretly compare siblings), she negotiates her way out of nearly every undesireable situation and makes tangible excuses for the rest. Moreover, she does it in a most impressive way, with creative thinking, an impressive vocabulary and a beguiling grin that would convince Cupid to hand over his wings.
“Oh, I can’t possibly stop to pick up that wet towel,” she’ll say tossing that glossy blonde head of hers. “I’m on my way to build a castle. Brother is available though. And if he’s busy, you could try Daddy.”
Mind you, she’s four years old.
(Her father, however, is an attorney—and a very good one at that—so I’m blaming his DNA.)
Thus, I have to tell you about a lovely turn of events in our house: Elizabeth is on a cleaning spree.
In fact, she’s doing such a good job, she’s threatening to replace my marvelous housekeeper, Dana, who is very nearly a part of the family.
“Well, Momma, we have a sippy cup here,” she said tonight in her best sing-songy schoolteacher voice. “I’ll put it on the bench so you can take it downstairs after you tuck us in.”
The report did not come from Elizabeth’s bedroom—which she had already spent 30 minutes tidying—but from her brother’s.
You see, while Will was in the bathtub floating on his back and singing “Ralph” hits, she eschewed water play to line up his massive car collection by color and tip the toes of all of his shoes Northward. Then she had carefully arranged his stuffed animals sizewise on his bed and reshelved his books according to the Dewey Decimal System.
“Momma, do you want me to do the sink?” she asked eyeballing the Crest-encrusted basin.
That was honestly all I could say. I was, after all, in a state of shock.
Next, she puttered on to the playroom moaning about the disarray of things.
“Oh, Momma,” she said, “who wants a child that doesn’t clean up? Not me, ohhh nooo.”
I had to sit down—and quick—before I passed out.
I could understand this behavior kicking in for a kid who is being raised by neat freaks. But neither Jim nor I fit that bill—we’re sort of happily mussy: I have piles of dirty clothes jammed in the laundry room, unsent Christmas cards stacked carefully atop my desk, five or so junk drawers, though the stuff is organized into sectioned plasticware. We have systems, see, but I still leave dishes in the sink for the higher purpose of playing with my children in piles of leaves.
And yet, here is this preschooler who could interview to work for Merry Maid.
Perhaps I can thank her Montessori teachers.
“Momma,” she said, snapping me out of my fugue, “Let’s take the trash out.”
Down the stairs and out the door we went to the behemoth blue trash bin.
“Now open the top and let me dump this in,” she said.
I cracked open the 5-pound lid and she gasped.
There, nestled amongst the egg whites and greasy paper towels were two crumpled drawings she had made me. They were not two of her best, which is why they were not hanging in our playroom art gallery.
So, I did what all good mothers do: I threw our beloved housekeeper under the bus.
“Um, I bet Dana didn’t know how valuable those are,” I said, extracting them from the bin carefully. “Thanks for having such good eyes.”
Sometimes, a kid can be downright too helpful.


1 comment:

Eudea-Mamia said...


I have learned to bury those babies - the artwork that is.

And as far as Elizabeth goes, send her back over. The Christmas tree has yet to come down.