Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Camera Takes a Bath: A Lesson in Parenting

Happy Thanksgiving!

You should have seen the rest of them!
With Thanksgiving but a day away, like many, I am counting many blessings.

With the fact that I love capturing family memories through snapshots, one silly, but big-to-me thing that I am grateful for is having a camera to capture memories of some of those blessings tomorrow.  That almost was not the case.

As I mentioned in my last Homeschool Mother's Journal post, our camera suffered a mishap in the latter part of October...

The Kids Were a Bit Too Quiet; Mommy Got a Bit Too Loud

Gel Paints in the Making
Luke and Nina were another room being unusually quiet.  Silly me did not clue in to the fact something was likely amiss.  Instead, I hurriedly took advantage of their busyness in order attend some chores with just Jack underfoot.

Not the best forethought, Mom.  A moment of seeming quiet can lead to a series of silly “disasters”.

When Luke and Nina reappeared, they were covered – absolutely covered – in marker.  I began to react in a typical frustrated mom way.  My too-loud and uncharitable voice barked, “You know you only use markers on paper!  What have you done…”  Blah... blah… blah!  Then, I caught myself.

A Pause for Better Parenting

A Gel Paint Palette
Pause.  I coached myself.  Give yourself and them some space.  “Your markers will now be gone for a week.”  I marched to the other room to confiscate any marker in sight.  As I zipped these into a plastic bag and threw them with an angry flourish into a closet where the children would not be able to reach them easily, I realized what I was doing.

Act.  Don’t react.  I reminded myself.  I took a deep breath and walked back into the hallway to see Jack studying the canvas of his half-giggling, half-quivering, all-colored siblings.

Reframe.  Reframe.  Follow the children.  Try to listen to what they were trying to do not what they actually did.

I knelt to the children’s eye level.  “Luke, Nina, it seems you wanted to color on yourselves.  You know you are only supposed to use markers on paper.  If you want to color on yourselves, simply ask Mommy.  I will let you – in an appropriate way and place.”  I, then, ushered Luke and Nina into the bathroom (but not before taking a picture of their legs for posterity) and asked them to take off their marked-on clothes so they could stand in their tub where I would bring them a surprise to help them explore their creativity.

While Luke and Nina disrobed, I brought shower gel to the kitchen, mixed it with some food coloring and put it on a plastic lid, thus creating a body finger paint palette.

Luke and Nina welcomed the gift of these gel paints when I handed the palette over to them, and, as I expected they would do, began to paint themselves.  Win-win-win. I thought.  They get to color themselves.  The marker gets washed off them without a fight.  And, I drew back from a useless mommy explosion.

When Will Mama Learn?

This is the way we paint our bellies!
Satisfied, I took photos of them painting – and, that, my friends is where I may have really gone wrong.

You see, I did not witness Jack watching me memorialize the moment, but he sure witnessed me doing so.
Thus, when I took advantage of what I thought was another children-are-engaged moment, things went awry.

I wanted to get Luke and Nina’s colored on clothing into the wash to soak.  So, once Luke and Nina were fully immersed in painting themselves and Jack was busy playing with something in the living room, I told Luke and Nina  that I was just going to run downstairs to the laundry machine for a moment, to have fun painting and to call me when they were ready to wash their paints off.

I was barely into transferring what was in the wash to the dryer in order to put their marked on outfits into the wash when I heard water from upstairs running through the pipes. 

Ugh!  I thought.  I asked them to call me when they wanted to actually take a tub.

Then, I heard a rising cacophony of voices, punctuated by the word “Jack” being said in various tones of amusement, correction and complaint. What are they doing?  Is Jack trying to get into the tub?  Are they putting him in the tub with them? 

I ran back upstairs, reminding myself to try to pause and act instead of reacting.

What I found was a sudsy-handed Jack holding my camera.

Not good.

Luke and Nina said that Jack had tried to take their picture and that they’d tried to take the camera away.  I asked them if the camera had been immersed in the water in the tub.  They assured me it hadn’t.  So, I expected to just wipe a few suds off the camera and move on.

Nope.  The camera was wetter than expected.  So, I took the battery and memory card out of it and set the opened-up camera in a high place to dry out while I tried to tease out of the kids what had really happened.

A Plausible Explanation and More Conscious Parenting

Now, this is how to color yourself!
It seems that while Luke decided to turn on the bathtub faucet and to have a game of splash with Nina, Jack drew a chair up to the kitchen counter, where I had placed the camera, took hold of the camera and brought it into the bathroom to try to take some photos of his siblings.  Luke and Nina knew Jack should not have the camera, so, with their own wet hands, they took it from him and set it just outside the tub (where, um, there was a big puddle).  As I bounded up the stairs, Jack picked the camera up again.  And, that my friends, is where I caught the kids, wet-handed.

A fast-paced mishap.  A comedy of errors that resulted in one dead camera for our family.  A reminder to Mommy that taking advantage of a seemingly quiet moments to complete chores or move laundry along is not always worth it.

Another day – or part of the day – in the life of a Mommy, who is, if nothing else, coaching herself to act, not to react.

Yep, I am so proud of myself.  As much as I LOVE photos and take them nearly every day, I did not completely explode at the kids when the camera took its bath. 

The power of pausing and taking perspective (people over things) squashed my (recent, awful) habit of shouting.


Now, thanks to an old friend, we have a will-do-for-now camera replacement for me to use until a fancier one is within budget again -- one that has already been serving us perfectly well and will definitely capture moments of blessings at our family Thanksgiving tomorrow.  So, thanks, Melinda, for the camera.  Thanks kids for the opportunity to practice more peaceful, proactive parenting and thanks God for the continued joy and lessons of living my call.

What lessons have you learned lately?  Have any mishaps turned into moments of self-improvement?  Do share!


Anonymous said...

Happy thanksgiving dear family . this post was hilarious , proof that we are not the craziest family on the planet . you did well mummy , I am learning from you to take deep breath and not loose it . my kids , oh I said my kids ?? god they sound so much like yours .blessings . viv

Beth ( said...

I think those stressful moments when we are wondering 'what were they thinking?!!' are such huge character moments. Those are when they see how we react & we can impress upon their little hearts the most. I still remember when my husband's youth pastor was visiting and the kids were in bed (or so we thought)... when I went up to change by colicy baby I found shampoo & soap all over all the carpet & much of the walls! YIKES! You did a good job, it's not easy =-) Thanks for linking up to TGIF! See you next time!
Beth =-)


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