“Again. Do again.”
What in the world . . . ? I am walking up the stairs of our first home in NJ. It’s a saltbox type. The roof slopes low in the front; at the back, a rising second-story holds two minuscule bedrooms. Between them lies a tiny bath and a short connecting hall that’s about as long as my husband is tall. The beauty of it is that a childproof gate at the top of the stairwell creates a unique living space, one that corrals my very young children into what feels like a giant loft. I am comfortable allowing unsupervised play in this area because there is very little to get into.
Or so I thought.
I follow the sound of my daughters’ voices. Kali and Lauren are, respectively, three and one years of age—old enough to know to shut the door when engaging in mischief, but not old enough to lock it. My entrance will be soundless. I push the door open, and the laughter dies.
The room is full of choking dust, an alabaster cloud that pours past me, escaping to the hall. It’s hard to breathe. I stifle a cough and step inside. Fine, pale silt that will defy any vacuum cleaner covers everything. I look down, and two small faces, as white-coated as any mime, peer upward. The only bright color left in the room are their shiny, blinking eyes. Their expressions are priceless, the epitome of “UH-OH!” The three-year-old clutches the weapon of mass destruction in both hands, a tall, plastic container. For the moment, I have no voice, but they have divined something very important from my face—they are both in deep doo-doo.
Kali makes the first overture and hands over the WOMD, a silent gesture of atonement. I accept the offering—a super-sized carton of baby powder—while trying to comprehend the mess.
“What happened here?” I finally say.
They are both quick to rat each other out, even the youngest who has limited language skills finds words.
“She do poof!”
“She wanted me to.”
It all clicks. They discovered that squishing the carton produces a high, geyser-like spray. Apparently, shooting baby powder into the air is great fun. I wouldn’t know. I have never dared such recklessness…ever. My fingers itch. I heft the nearly empty container, weighing proper parental indignation against teaching a different lesson. Aw, heck. Why not? The price is paid. I will have to clean the room, regardless, and it is a given they will help.
I give the sides a light squeeze. The result is a wimpy display that puffs like candle smoke. The girl’s eyes widen. I have to admit, it is a little fun. Kali is quick to extend her services. She is, after all, the pro.
“I can do it!” she says.
“Yes, your skill is well noted,” I reply, “but let’s give your sister a turn.”
Lauren is so excited her hands tremble. She’s not strong enough to be effective, so I give her a little help.
Sometimes you have to live a little.