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Parenting Imperfect

September 18, 2011

Being the Stuff Master to the Diva takes a lot of work

About 30 seconds after my first child was born, I somehow became the master of all of her stuff.

The same isn't true of the second child, by the way. His stuff is generally not my problem. This might be the result of moving into a house where his big sister has already laid claim to anything even remotely interesting.

I'm ready to hand off my title of Stuff Master, frankly.

The barrage of questions about where her doll's hairbrush (or left boot or homework or the cat) is has gotten on my last nerve.

It's somehow my fault if she loses her place in the book she's reading. If I dare throw out a scrap of paper that was on the mud room table for two weeks without every being looked at, I have done the moral equivalent of kicking a kitten, judging by her response.

I am not a diligent master of her stuff, mostly because I have enough to worry about. Besides, she's old enough at this point to keep track of her own hair bands and bike helmet.

When she leaves a debris field _ you know, leaving a toy or book or piece of fabric behind in every corner and on every flat surface of every room she walks through _ I pick it all up and throw it on the floor of her room. Then I wheedle at her until she puts it away. And she ignores me until I start threatening to throw it all away.

Which is followed by pouting and grousing by both parties. Then she puts her stuff away.

It's a dysfunctional system, sure. But it is a system.

What irritates me most about being the master of stuff are the hours the job requires.

"Mom," the Diva said a few mornings ago as she was poking me in the shoulder.

"What?" I said, rolling over in my bed to see what time it was. Which was followed by a sigh when I realized I didn't have to be up for another hour.

"Do you know where my lime green capris are?"

"Why would I know that?"

"You do the laundry and put things away and lose them."

"From now on, you're putting your own laundry away." I was tempted to tack "missy" onto the end of that sentence but was too tired to work up enough ire.

"So you know where my lime green capris are."

"You don't have lime green capris."

"I do," she insisted. "Grandma got them for me."

"I don't think she did," I said. "Or if she did, I haven't seen them. Or touched them. Or washed them. Or picked them up off of the floor when you left them there."

"So you lost them, Mom," she said, rolling her eyes.

"First, I haven't even touched them. Second, giving attitude to someone you're asking a favor of never gets you what you want. And, third, have you looked in your drawer, you know, the one that has all of your pants in it?"

She flounced out of the room. I rolled over and tried to get back to sleep. Just as I drifted off, the poking started again.

"They aren't there, Mom," she said, sounding like she might burst into tears.

"I don't know what to tell you." I said. "I have no memory of you even owning lime green capris. Sorry, sweetie."

That's when the sobbing started. Each tear-filled sob was punctuated by the insistence that she did have them and I lost them and she had to wear them.

Because I am a good mom or, at least, try to maintain the illusion that I am one, I got up to help her look.

No lime green capris were located but she was, eventually, persuaded to make do with a kelly green pair of shorts with daisies on them.

This Sunday morning, long after I'd considered the matter closed, the Diva came bounding into my room. I was awake this time, if not out of bed.

"Look, Mom!" she said. "I found it!"

She flapped a lime green T-shirt at me.

"That's not pants," I said.

"I just got confused. This was what I was looking for. Not pants." She smiled shyly at me.

"But ...," I said, then let it go. The master of stuff knows when to leave well enough alone.

Adrienne Martini is a freelance writer, instructor at the State University College at Oneonta, mom to Maddy and Cory, wife to Scott, and author of "Sweater Quest," last year. Her columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/ parentingimperfect.

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