|This one lacks the blue glitter, and is confined to her lips, but is otherwise similar.|
I heard a gasp, then my seven year old's ominous tone, "Mom is not going to be happy about that." I held my breath lest the little one wake up as I eased away as carefully as possible. I tiptoed to the living room and bit back a shriek. Nearly every surface imaginable was smeared with lipstick.
My two year old is fascinated by lipstick. I am not sure why, but she is obsessed with the stuff. She asks every day for me to buy her some blue lipstick. I had conceded to give her a couple of tubes of chapstick, but she was savvy enough to realize that it did not color her lips the same way. And since blue is her favorite color, naturally she wanted bright blue.
I didn't have her favorite Spiderman-blue shade, but I had purchased an extremely vivid violet lipstick full of blue glitter once for fun. Apparently, she decided that this was an acceptable substitute. And because it was not something I wore regularly, it was nearly full. Was. Preterite tense. Not only was it now worn down to the nub, she had even gouged out the part that held it in the base.
But she had gotten remarkable mileage out of it. There were handprints going up the walls as she apparently had climbed to admire her handiwork in the mirror...smears all over random surfaces, the table...more all over the blinds where she must have climbed behind the couch to avoid discovery. And of course, she had painted herself with it liberally.
I was reeling. I normally keep all of my make up in the van because I know just how tempting it is to her to leave it in the house. But I had brought it in since the van was getting some repairs, and despite putting it up high, she had used her monkey superpowers to retrieve it.
Now, most people would suggest a scolding and perhaps a spanking to fix in her mind that she is not to touch that again, ever. After all, how will they be sorry if we don't make this a painful experience? We must make them somehow pay for their mistakes so that they will get how bad it was, right?
I was so overwhelmed at that moment that I went into autopilot mode. I numbly started cleaning up the mess. I gently told her that we needed to clean it up, and helped her wipe her face and hands. I really didn't know what to do next. I certainly didn't want her to repeat the actions, but I didn't feel right about shaming or punishing her, either. My mind raced trying to figure out the best way to handle the situation. Then, as so often happens when we wait, she astounded me.
My two year old began doing her best to help me. She rubbed the carpet and wiped surfaces, and let me wash her off. She hugged my knees tightly (inadvertently transferring a little more lipstick I had missed to my jeans), and looked up with a troubled face. "I sorry, mami. I broked your lipstick. I gib you one of mine. Here it is. It's not brokened. It's nice. You use it, you keep it now, OK?" She quickly brought me her favorite flavor.
I began to thank God fervently that I had been too overwhelmed to yell or scream (fear of waking the baby didn't hurt, either). Somehow, we have been conditioned to believe that we must make our children feel bad in order to make them do good. We don't. We don't have to create remorse. Sometimes, all they need is a little time to realize what has taken place.
She was so anxious to make amends, and so generous to offer her little treasures to replace what she had messed up. If I had scolded and punished, I would never have seen or recognized the open-heartedness of her gesture. I would have subconsciously assumed that she was doing it because she had to, not because she wanted to.
I think I have a new tool in my parenting tool box now. Waiting. Waiting for them to process what has happened. That may take a few minutes. It may take much longer as they reach the maturity necessary to understand. And of course we will continue to teach during that time. But I am convinced that if we wait, we will see things that we wouldn't otherwise. Like the tender heart and generosity of spirit in my little lipstick artist.