Monday, March 5, 2012

Need Change? Prove It

I needed proof. I needed proof that the couch we've had for ten years should not make the move to Clemson Road. Despite its general filth and stench, the couch had secured its place on the moving van simply because, to quote Cuk, "we already have a couch."

Cuk is a conservative guy. Getting change in our house is like getting a bill through congress.

First I have to research the plan, present a return-on-investment model, provide financing options, longevity estimates, and sometimes bring in witnesses to testify in favor of the change.

When I wanted to paint the kitchen, I had all of the necessary documentation to support the change. Even committed to doing it all by myself. But it wasn't until Cuk accidentally spilled a glass of red wine against the white wall, producing a purple stain, that I had proof.

Ultimately, I only ever need immediate proof to get change.

Yesterday morning, HB took it upon herself to provide proof. Armed with the green marker used to decorate the Melissa & Doug cupcakes she got for Valentine's Day (see right), she altered the couch in an irrevocable way.

As I laid lazily in bed reading Catching Fire, she was hard at work providing that moment which changes the trajectory of an object in motion.
She came to the bed and tugged on my hand. Smiling, with a pencil-thin green moustache. I grinned back at her, even woke Cuk to show him her funny face. (Yes, that's right, I may have been reading, but he was sleeping) Then I followed her into the living room where she stood, proudly, over her masterpiece.

Processing Failure
You'll want to know how I reacted, of course. And a frown would not have been sufficient. I think she knew I was displeased. We made eye contact in that mommy-HB way and she dropped her chin to her chest.

Very few words exchanged. I think "very big mess" and "not okay" were the key ones.

I went for the cleaning supplies. I handed her a rag to wipe the marker off the column in the foyer. She got to work as did I. With the Bissel Little Green Machine, I worked on the carpet.
With the Mr. Clean magic sponge I worked on the wall.

When Daddy came in, shook his head, and went back to bed, I knew he was processing the failure.

We had played a movie and let HB mind herself as we spent a lazy Sunday morning about 30 feet away. But she's just three and four on her birthday. It really isn't her job to determine what she should and shouldn't do with the markers. We overestimated her ability to make our decisions.

I cleaned. HB cleaned. Daddy processed. Then he emerged and helped us clean, too. We cleaned up, forgave each other, and moved on. Quickly. Immediately. No pouting, no shouting, no grudge-holding.

The couch could not be saved. Fortunately, we aren't selling the couch, we're selling the walls and the carpet and they came out okay.

We put the cupcake play set in a plastic bag and put it in the closet. Then we went to lunch.


Why it matters
After a delicious lunch during which we thoroughly enjoyed our charming daughter, PF Chang's lettuce wraps, and three glasses of wine, we returned to the scene of the crime.

By this point we had recovered enough to make a few jokes about not really wanting to haul the couch to Clemson Road anyway. We even re-told the story with both sets of distant grands via Skype that night. HB got to tell the part about the cupcakes "going away." Not just the markers, the entire play set.

Our homes were sometimes marred with incidents like these when we were children. What home isn't? And Cuk and I realized the basic break down of responsibility on all fronts. We cleaned up, forgave each other, and moved on. Quickly. Immediately.

This recovery is so very important. We are the grown ups, we are supposed to be emotionally mature enough to handle failure. That's the only way we can teach her how to do so.

So now I get a new couch without the hassle of ROI calculations, financing options, and longevity estimates. I'm not going to admit putting her up to it. But it did provide sufficient proof.

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