The other day while I was busy loading the dishwasher, my 16 month old son ambled into the kitchen to, among other things, shake the living daylights out of the bottom rack of the dishwasher. I gave him this puzzled expression which he answered with an ear to ear grin. After proceeding to tell him to stop and removing his hands, which I am convinced have magnets or some other sticky property to them, he turned around and grabbed hold of the spigot to the nearby water cooler. To my disbelief, with one hand he leaned in and began pulling on it until it threatened to fall over on top of him, all the while smiling up at me with this “Watch this, Dad!” look on his face.
Now, I didn’t scold him or yell at him because I know that this is just par for the course with toddlers. What vexed my mind was the fact that destruction is the default setting for children. At every opportunity Avery is plotting (as much as a toddler can plot) his next target. He yanks down tablecloths. Throws toys in the toilet. Smacks the picture window in the living room. Mashes the keyboard on my laptop. Bangs on the piano with balled up fists. Pulls every single baby wipe out of the container. And, if allowed, will unravel the toilet paper roll until it sits in a gloriously unruly pile on the floor.
Why can’t a child’s default be the restoration of chaos? Wouldn’t it be awesome if at every turn kids were turning off lights, picking up toys or unloading the dishwasher? But no… these things have to be taught. The process of which requires repetition, demonstration and ongoing discussion. Even so, some kids STILL don’t seem to get it. There are certain things I’ve come to expect of a toddler that I don’t think I should still have to worry about with my teenage boys. While they’ve mastered taking out the trash, they still don’t seem to mind sleeping a bedroom so funky and piled with clothes that you’d need a map just to get from the door to the closet.
Someday all of my children will know the joy of keeping things clean and taking care of their possessions. Well, at least that’s my prayer. Until then, a man can dream. And in the meantime, I’ll keep rescuing my youngest son from any potential self-inflicted calamity.