So, I know better, and yet these kids still manage to catch me off guard. It’s like it’s their mission in life, to find your moments of weakness and then take advantage in a way you’d never expect. The other day I was chatting with my father, standing by the front door. I’d just come back from my weekly break, and he was headed home, but first we had some catching up to do. The girls were a little crazy, running around and flinging diapers at each other (clean diapers, fresh from the package), making a mess and shrieking up a storm. I asked them to pick up the diapers, and they started to, carrying armloads of them down to the family room to put them away. Maybe ten minutes went by as my dad and I chatted, possibly fifteen, before he left and I headed into the kitchen to make them lunch.
Peanut came up to me, hands held out to me and said, “Look Mommy. It’s dirty.” She’s never been one to like dirty hands, and will cause a fuss if she finds a speck of lint on her palm, so I escorted her toward the kitchen to wash her hands, but then I noticed what was on her hands. Sand, which made no sense, as we keep no sand in the house. I asked her what it was and she said, “We’re making footprints,” which also made no sense, so I followed the sound of String Bean’s cheerful chatter and found a complete disaster. Kitty litter, fresh from the litter box (as in, not the clean kind), was everywhere. It covered the bathroom floor, the laundry room floor, it filled the potty chair, it was in the sink, it was tracked onto the carpet in the family room, it was on the coffee table. There were sand buckets filled with it and toys strewed around on top of it. I was too horrified to react, but after I yanked the kids out of the mess and got to work sterilizing them from top to bottom, shaking my head and muttering to myself to avoid yelling at them, they got the idea that they were in trouble. Which is strange, since they’ve been told countless times never to touch the cat box, and until now, have had a perfect record. How could they suddenly forget that it was forbidden? Except, of course, if they knew it was, and that was the whole allure.
Regardless, I did eventually get around to yelling at them, when String Bean put on an attitude, smirking at me, making jokes with Peanut, and refusing to act contrite in any way. I put them both in time out with lunch while I vacuumed up the bulk of the mess, then swept, then mopped, and I still don’t feel like it’s clean enough. We’ve had countless conversations since then about germs and dust and general filth, to not just make it clear that the litter box is off limits, but to explain why. But I feel pretty sure the explanation isn’t necessary, because they’d never do anything as predictable as making the same type of disaster twice.