Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Great Trade-Off

You know the general rule that all mothers adhere to? The one that goes something like this: If you cannot see your child, and she is being particularly, unusually quiet, it probably means she's doing something that she's not supposed to.


However, there is a little something that I call the Great Trade-Off. This is when you know that they're up to something that you might not want them to do...say, emptying out your Tupperware cabinet, or pulling all of your socks out of your drawer...but since it's nothing life-threatening and you know it will only take you a few seconds to clean it up later, you let them continue. All to buy yourself a few uninterrupted minutes.

Please tell me you've done this. At least once in your life.

Case in point:

Savannah had a box of regular Crayola crayons that she got when she was about a year and a half. A few weeks later they were all either lost or snapped in half. The perfectionist in me cannot stand broken crayons so I would toss them (that was before I found out I could do this with them...cool!).

Just before Christmas, I ran across a big box of self-sharpening crayons. Each one was encased in a plastic tube, and you just had to turn the bottom to wind it up. Perfect! I figured these were the answer to the breaking-of-the crayon problem, so I snatched them up. Brilliant, right? Surely she could not do any damage to these, because after all, they were made of plastic. Practically impervious.

A few weeks ago, we sat in the living room, getting our evening fix of Wheel of Fortune. This is probably very, very uncool to admit that we watch it every evening. But we do. It is our Family Show, and we get excited about it. Even Savannah gets in on the fun, calling out the letters as they come up.

So. About half through, Savannah wandered behind the couch where her crayons and coloring books are kept. And she was being extremely quiet.

Red flag.

I asked her what she was doing, and she said, "Counting, Mama! One, two, three, four..." Ok. Back to the show. The thing was, I knew she was up to something other than just coloring and counting. But...the Great Trade-Off had commenced.

Later on, I walked by her coloring station, and saw this:

She had methodically taken each crayon apart, rendering them completely useless. The plastic case, the crayon part, the white wind-up thing. All sitting in piles. She couldn't snap these crayons in half, but she sure could wreak havoc on them nonetheless.

So much for my brilliance. And that impervious plastic.

Tonight I was cleaning up the kitchen, and I realized I hadn't seen her in about 10 minutes. I asked Ricardo where she was, and he said she was playing in her room. Quietly.

Once, again, cue the Great Trade-Off.

And also once again, I was in for this little treat:

I keep the pink basket full of hair accessories on her dresser, where she can't reach them. Or rather, where she couldn't reach them before she realized she could utilize that box underneath her dresser as a handy little step-stool.

What is so fascinating about dismantling things? She now has a few barrettes that have been stripped of their fancy little flowers. And she isn't satisfied with just emptying the basket...no. She has to take every single barrette (and there are a lot of them, trust me) off of the paper holder and mix them up.

But no matter that it took me 10 minutes to separate all of the barrettes and match up every single ponytail holder according to color.

At least I got the kitchen cleaned up. And that's what I call a good trade.


Cheri said...

I remember one morning not long after The Boy learned to crawl. He emptied all the diapers from the stacker. While I was cleaning those up, he proceeded to empty all the clothes stacked nicely on the changing table. Then the wipes container...

It was a long morning. Without the trade off of quiet.

Now, 11 years later, I'm finally like WHAT-EVAH. Just clean it up.

Casey said...

Oh, I employ this tactic several times a day. For instance... right this very second I am watching my boy pull the DVD's out of the entertainment center 1 by 1. Technically speaking, this is a no-no, but he is quiet and playing so nicely by himself that I am just letting him go at it.

Besides it's giving me a free moment to check my bloglines! :)

Jenn said...

UMMMM Extremely Guilty of this times 4!

Lisa@verybusymomwith4 said...

I gave up on the crayon battle years ago and I just buy a big case giving them one packet at a time ;)

A clean kitchen is always a good trade in my book :)

Gretchen said...

It's.always.something.right? xxxoogretchen

Jenny said...

I've never done this before. I don't even know what you're talking about.

I am such a liar. Now I have a name for it, too... I've always just thought, "I'm not looking..."!

Jennifer @ Taking My Time said...

I very rarely even know what Rachel is doing! I had to confess that. Anyway, she uses her hairbow basket for other things on a regular basis. Yesterday I asked her where the hair stuff was and she said "In my Dora bucket." They're still there. Something important is going on with that basket!

Carolina Mama said...

And I thought it was just boys. She's very thorough that's for sure.

Darcie said...

You forgot going through your purse, scribbling all over your paperwork and playing in the water that accumulates at the bottom of the dishwasher.

Lizz @ Yes, and So is My Heart said...

Oh, I do the trade off thing all the time. Nothing like getting one mess cleaned up at the expense of another.

mamajil said...

Yeah, I am definitely guilty of this. I will say that with Sawyer(our 7th) there were never any good quiet moments...if he was quiet...it was gonna be bad!! Sharpie to the leather couch(lucky for us I rearranged the furniture and put the sharpie side towards the wall),sharpie to the new pack n/n play, sharpie to his entire body...okay it took me awhile but I finally stopped buying sharpie markers.
all that to say I enjoyed your post and I can totally relate with the whole trade off thing!
be blessed!

Wendy said...

My older kids used to empty my food storage container cabinet all the time...we're in a different house with the youngest, so she never got the opportunity to do that. Although she has drawn on our walls in this house.

ttm said...

You are so funny.EJ's favorite things to empty are the tupperware cupboard, his diaper basket and our bookshelf. Although I struggle with the bookshelf part because I don't want to discourage him from being interested in books, but how do you teach him at this age that the novels the aren't his, he needs to go empty his drawer full of books?
I enjoyed reading this, I love to hear what sweet little Savannah is up to.

ttm said...

PS- I love the fact that you seperate them all out by color and keep them on the paper holders. HeeHee!

mamachristina said...

so cute. its amazing how quickly they learn. My 1 year old is already pushing around chairs to get up on counters and such. I definately do the trade off, i think realistically every mother does whether they want to admit it or not.

Marci @Finding Joy in the Journey said...

There are times I put this tactic into action even while I'm in the room and see them. I just never make eye contact and pretend to be ignorant. I'm always just happy when it's something mundain like emptying a bucket or getting into a big sister's backpack. The way I look at it, if it doesn't stain anything or require immediate bathing, I'm golden!

Kellie said...

This is so funny!

I used to babysit twin boys. They had snuck in to the garage (thankfully not while I was there) and COMPLETELY dismantled their Dad's power drill and saw, right down to the last bolt. The expensive tools were rendered useless.

The good news?...those boy grew up to be two VERY smart individuals! So there is hope!