Yesterday, when my ten year old son and five year old daughter came home from school, I met them at the door as I usually do, but this time they greeted me with a rather brief kiss. Their cheeks were bright red, and cold! I look forward to this moment every day, but yesterday, they darn near knocked me over! After removing their jackets, they barreled through the mudroom, headed for the kitchen, and set up shop. There, they ransacked their backpacks, and excavated all the Valentine’s Day candy that they got at their classroom parties, and from their classmates. It was their pirate’s booty.
Watching them over the island, I was so tempted to take all that candy and put it in the garbage, especially since there was no candy or chocolate in there that I wanted. :o They plowed through that nasty Fun Dip – which is really powdered sugar colored with FD&C Red #3 – as if they were making tracks, and chewed Tootsie Rolls and heart-shaped candies with a determination that I hadn’t seen them exact in quite a while. They looked stuffed to the gills, but they kept at it as they made indiscriminate piles of ripped candy wrappers, their favorites, and lesser-known varieties. They were hell-bent on moving full steam ahead, and I dared not stop them.
I was so tempted to bring their sugar-laced antics to a screeching halt. There was Fun Dip on the floor, Hershey kisses’ ribbons on the seats, and half-torn goodie bags strewn all over my kitchen table. The place was a mess! I was thinking to myself that just a few moments before they came home, I was almost able to see my reflection in the kitchen table. Now, I could hardly see white space. To top things off, I didn’t plan for this interruption in the day. Dinner was only a few hours away, and they still hadn’t had their healthy snack. These days, I had been cutting up fruit and setting it on a pretty plate, along with a pitcher of ice-cold water, so that when they got home from school, they were immediately satisfied with something nutritious. Not today, mama! My babies clearly had other plans, and they were indoctrinating the youngest, my two year old, who was not going to be left out by any means. She just moved her little plate over which still had a half-eaten cup of applesauce and a cup of milk on it, as if to say “put mine right over here”! Oh! Where is Niecy Nash when I need her? Who’s going to stop all this “mayhem and foolishness”?
Instead, I pressed my “override” button, and decided to just let them be. In a surprising instant, I decided to quietly permit them to enjoy their cookies and candy. After all, it was Valentine’s Day. I lightened up a little bit so they could create their own memory of a school day Valentine. Maybe this memory was for me. Until my son’s age, I lived in rather strict household in the Caribbean islands. To top things off, there were none of these holiday celebrations as they are here. Hallo-what? We got penny candy from the local stores on occasion, but I had never seen anything like this growing up as a child. Instead, I got my refined sugar from the fresh bread and cakes that my grandfather baked in the large brick oven outside our kitchen.
So rather than fixate on the mess that would need cleaning when this was all over, I focused on the enjoyment that colored my children’s faces, and the fun they were having with each other in sharing and trading. I savored the grimaces they made when they discovered that their selections were sour, and not sweet, and treasured squeals of delight that can only come from being a child with nothing on your mind except the present. I knew that it wouldn’t be long before they would come to their own senses, and toss out the remaining candy that they either didn’t like, or that wasn’t worth having. I knew that I taught them well enough to clean up when they were done, even if it wasn’t to my standards. It was their moment, and I wouldn’t take that joy away from them, so I let them be.
One of my favorites: On Children, sung by Sweet Honey In The Rock