“Where are my scissors?” asks my friend, panic rising in her voice. She’s in luck this time, the scissors are quickly found.
“I always get annoyed when the kids take my things,” she explains, as if in apology.
Why can’t you just let it go? I think, It’s just a thing. Is it worth endangering your relationship with your kids because of a stupid pair of scissors?
I quench the thought down, because this voice isn’t mine. It comes from books, from experts, from bloggers who have made it their job to make parents feel guilty so that they’d buy more books and products they don’t need.
“Oh, I know. It happens to me all the time!” I say, instead, because I do understand.
I know that each time my kids take something of mine I should tell them that it doesn’t matter. Instead, I’m supposed to teach them not to overestimate the importance of material things.
To me these things are never just things.
That mug one of my kids broke a while back wasn’t just a mug, but a reminder of my home country. I can’t easily replace it. I may ask my parents to bring me another one next time they come to visit, but that can take a while, and each of these mugs is unique, so the new one wouldn’t be the same.
The scissors or pens are objects I use on a daily basis. If my kids lose or misplace them, I won’t be able to do my job, and I’ll need to spend additional effort and energy to locate them. It’s that lack of respect for my work that I find so enraging.
Mothers are encouraged to turn their homes into a safe haven for their kids, but I am tired of pretending that I’m invisible, that I don’t live in my own house, that I don’t deserve the safety of knowing that my things won’t be touched, misplaced, or destroyed.
Yes, I am responsible for creating a good atmosphere in my home, but so is everyone else living here. I want my children to learn to respect my things, and my work. That’s why they have to learn to clean the floors of their toys after playing so that everyone can move freely, without running the danger of slipping and breaking a leg. That’s why I ask my husband to repair everything as soon as it breaks so that I don’t have to think about it for too long.
The most irritating part of parenting is that I always have to justify my actions to my children. After hours of explaining, “Please don’t use the scissors. I need them,” I feel like exploding. What would happen if I just let them be? What’s the problem with spending a little bit more time looking for a lost object?
Because it’s never “just a little bit.” Five minutes spent looking for a pen is quickly followed up by an additional two minutes wasted trying to repair the printer, which is then followed up by spending another ten minutes on trying to locate some toy or another, and it adds up. At the end of the day, I will have wasted (yes, wasted), considerable amounts of time on trying to locate lost objects, taking care of broken appliances, and other totally utterly useless things.
Just think of what I could be doing instead? I could be working. I could be resting. I could be playing with my kids. Instead, I’m wasting my precious time trying to locate some object that’s just an object, but really is the world to me. Having that pen or that pair of scissors at hand means that I can turn to other, more important things. In fact, it’s more often the teeny, seemingly unimportant things that break a mother.
That’s why, when my dryer broke down, I did too. I was up to my in chin in dirty laundry. A dryer that wasn’t functioning properly totally destroyed my routine. Instead of doing my laundry automatically, I had to stop and plan what I’m going to do next. That took considerable time and energy that I could have used in other, more productive ways, and I hate wasting time. So I had a crisis.
“I need this to work. I need this to function,” I told my husband. Experts talk about mindfulness, and not being too dependent on machines, but the truth is that mothers rely on automation to get them through the day. No, I don’t think I need to be more mindful about my laundry. I just need to get it done. If I’m the one to keep my house in order, and most of household chores fall to me, I need all appliances and devices to function properly. Having everything in its place, where it should be is not a mere want. It’s a need, and everyone in my family has to be aware of that.
That’s why my children must always ask whether they can borrow my pen or post-it notes. If they don’t listen, I try my best to make them aware of the work I’m doing to keep the house a safe place for all of us by saying, “Please don’t touch this without my permission. It’s here for a reason.”