It has always amazed me how siblings can all be so similar in some ways and yet so different in others. Three of my kids are very blonde, while Troy stands out with his soft, thick, brown hair. Jason is the practical, serious, leader-type child that argues about everything. For instance, when my mother mentioned something about when he goes back to school in September, he stopped her right there and said, “You mean August.” That is Jason. Troy is the creative, quiet, behind-the-scenes type who is not afraid to show his emotions. He couldn’t care less if you said he was going back to school in September. He is intensely curious and asks “why” about everything, and I mean everything! While this is a good thing, it can get annoying very quickly. I have to be very patient with him sometimes.
As you have probably figured out by now, Derek is my dare-devil. He is the kid with no fear, and lets nothing hold him back or slow him down. He is a bull in a china shop with a gigantic bullhorn attached to his mouth. He is out-going, happy, and also very curious like Troy. And then finally, we have Ashley. Ash is the drama queen for sure. She knows how to milk sympathy out of every situation. She also knows she is cute and uses it to her advantage. She is curious like her two older brothers, which means she is CONSTANTLY into something. As bad as most kids are at 18 months about getting into things, I am convinced that Ashley is worse than all of them. She is a cross between an octopus and Plastic Man. Nothing seems to be out of her reach!
So why am I telling you all of this? Well, I am not sure exactly, other than the fact that it is a decent introduction to my main point, which is how Derek and Troy’s curiosity can really be frustrating. Today was one of those days when I wished they were all practical perfectionists like Jason. While constantly being corrected and challenged by a 6-year-old can be irritating, cleaning up the disasters caused by curious 5 and 3-year-olds can sometimes be more so.This morning I look out the window while cleaning up the breakfast dishes, and I see Derek and Troy excitedly stirring up some concoction in the kiddie pool they had filled up with water. They were stirring it up with a large stick, and Troy told Derek to, “get some more.” “Get some more what?”, I wondered. I kept watching, assuming it was going to be dirt or grass or maybe seeds from a tree. Nope. It was these little white things that looked like perfectly formed rocks. They looked like something bought from a store. I stopped doing the dishes and walked outside to investigate further. Sure enough, the main ingredient to their magic brew was water-softener salt Big Jason had just brought in from my van. *sigh*
I go out and ask them where all the salt is, and they show me a stash they had made before my husband carted all the bags downstairs. (They are quick when stealing materials for their experiments!) I gather up the remaining nuggets of salt and return them to the bags. This is where it gets hard. I need to punish them for playing with materials that aren’t theirs and could be potentially dangerous. (I know salt is pretty benign, but they don’t discriminate between safe chemicals and not safe chemicals, so I treat them all the same.) At the same time, I don’t want to squash their curiosity and desire to learn what will happen if…this can be a very valuable trait some day, so I need to channel it in the right direction. I chose to tell them they should never, ever play with chemicals, especially not the ones that belong to Mommy and Daddy because they could kill themselves or the dogs. I told them that many chemicals are dangerous or poisonous, and they are not to be played with. I told them that next time they will be in big trouble and I left it at that.
Well, I guess I made some impact, because later in the day, I look out the window again and I see them once again stirring something in the kiddie pool, butthis time there are tons of title brown floaty-like things in there. I can’t quite make out what they are, so once again I step outside to investigate. This time, instead of chemicals, they had dumped about a third of a large bag of puppy food into the pool and were making Puppy Food Stew for the dogs. (Well, at least it wasn’t a chemical, right?) This time I get pretty mad and I ground them and told them they had to go to their rooms, but not until we salvaged as much of the puppy food as possible. Little Jason joined in, I got a couple of straining spoons, and we started scooping all the puppy food out of the pool. My thought was that, since I add water to the pups’ food anyway, I might still be able to feed this to them. It took us about a half hour to scoop out all the puppy food and to store it all in buckets. I then sent the little punks to their room to clean them and to think about how to play without getting into stuff that wasn’t theirs and weren’t toys.
You might think that this was enough, and that my little budding scientists were done experimenting for the day, but no. Nope. Not these two! Now comes bath time. I send Jason in first to take a bath, and he does it just like he is supposed to. He comes out smelling all clean and fresh and dressed in his PJ’s just like he should. Then I send Troy in, and Derek follows. They often take a bath together, and that is fine with me, but I know better than to leave them alone for any length of time. I am not sure what came over me, but I chose that time to gather up their PJ’s, Ashley, and her diaper, wipes, and PJ’s before I went into the bathroom. It doesn’t take me very long to do this step, but apparently it was long enough. I walk into the bathroom, and in a small, discarded Play Dough container, my little scientists had concocted another potion, but this time with shampoo, conditioner, cold water, lotion, and a few flakes of bar soap. Again, they were stirring it around with excitement when I walked in. I sighed and asked them what they thought they were doing. They looked up sheepishly and said they were making a magic potion. I reminded them that these ingredients were chemicals and also not toys. They were also not theirs to play with. They apologized, but knew they had to pay the price again. I decided to “ground” them by putting them to work tomorrow.
After I got them out of the bath and started cleaning Ashley, I reached for the shampoo. Troy was still in the room and started to giggle. I looked at him and then at the bottle of shampoo. Inside the bottle was a little kid paint brush submerged and floating in the shampoo. Troy looks at me and says, “Isn’t that cool, Mom? It sinks into the shampoo, but not all the way. It just sits there in the middle of it!” I shake my head and smile. Being the former science teacher, I actually did find that to be a little bit cool. I smiled at him and then I told him so. There is no way I will ever get them to stop experimenting and being curious kids, nor do I want to, but I hope I can at least keep them safe and away from the dog food.