“Fiona!” I exclaimed, not quite yelling, but close, “What did you do!?”
She stepped in front of the wall to hide it. Her arms spread wide across the dark pencil lines. Her expression scared.
It was that look of fear that stopped me in my tracks. However “not yelling” I might think I was, she clearly felt differently.
I took a deep breath. Just pencil. Just walls. Kids do this stuff. I reminded myself
“Oh no!” I said, keeping my tone light, “You drew on the wall. I can’t put your art on the Fridge if you draw on the wall.”
She looked at me suspiciously. Clearly this was not the response that she had envisioned.
We’d been round and round on the “you don’t need me to entertain you, go play”, “I’m not a playground, go find something else to do”, “Hitting me to get attention isn’t a good idea, go play” merry-go-round all day. Interspersed with attention and play and activities – don’t think I’m ignoring her. This was just one more method of gaining attention. Which, if she got her way, would be 100% of the attention, 100% of the time. I’m sure this is developmentally normal, however, it’s annoying.
Still, she had drawn on the walls to get a reaction (A reaction that despite trying to garner she didn’t really want? What’s with that?), and now I was disrupting her plan by taking it easy.
“Can you tell me about your art?” I asked smiling. My smile was more at her expression than anything else, but still, it counts.
“It’s a fish store!” She said, “See here’s the big fish. And this part says, ‘Fish for sale’. And this part says, ‘You have to feed him’!”
And she pointed to the various parts of her creation.
“Oh,” I said, “It’s a great fish store! I wish we could keep it.”
“We can’t?” She asked hopefully.
“Nope.” I said sadly, “It’s on the wall. We can only keep drawings on paper.”
“Yeah.” I got out a couple of erasers. “You and I have to work together to clean this off.”
“Noooo!” She cried.
“Yep.” I said calmly, “Next time you want to draw just ask me for some paper. I love your drawings and wish I could keep this one, but it’s on the wall, so we have to erase it.”
“You do it!” She said and threw the eraser at me.
I handed the eraser back to her, “Nope. It’s your drawing, you need to help. But we can have a race.” I erased a line down the middle. “Can you erase that side before I get this side?”
And we erased it. Slowly, with stops and starts, and a few tears.
“Next time, if you don’t want to erase your art, what should you do?” I asked her, as we finished cleaning the wall.
“Ask for paper,” She said in a sad little voice.
“That’s right!” I said and hugged her.
I thought to myself: There, I handled that well. She learned the lesson without it being about my anger. Gold star for Mama!
…Until the next day, when she decorated another wall. This time in crayon. Little stinker.