How do you spell order?
This question, posed by eight-year-old Little Mae is not unusual. Having just finished second grade and loving to write stories in her journal, she often asks how to spell words.
My mind tries filling in the blanks of what she might be writing about. Has she thought of a new story? Are she and her sister playing an imaginative game involving a restaurant and creating order pads? Is she drawing up a form where people could order items they are creating together?
Stepping into the dining room, I ask, What are you writing? On the table is a single sheet of white copy paper with the words Out and of printed largely and well-spaced down the page. Her question makes sense now, as the pieces fall into place.
What is out of order?
Without saying a word, she solemnly and silently points the eraser end of her pencil at the downstairs bathroom, already one of my least favorite places in the house these days, for various reasons.
The toilet is clogged.
My freak-out meter ramps up a bit, though I know she is just trying to help. Don’t we want our children to feel safe asking for help when they have a problem? Don’t we want them to try to problem solve, also? Logically, my brain says, Just calm down and create a safe space for her.
But that space is a clogged toilet with a roll of paper towels on the back of it!
Child eight does not know that her dad bought a new case of toilet paper at Costco on the way home from work yesterday. She only knows that she is bathroom chore this week, and that yesterday there was not a roll of extra toilet paper to be found in the house.
Even though I have been going to one store or another daily, it seems!!!! My organization skills are sorely lacking as of late. Remind me that I need butter if I go out today.
As I survey the scene and realize the damage is not great, I use the moment to practice mindful breathing and explain that if a toilet is clogged the best thing to do is to find a grown-up to help use the plunger to unclog it. This I do as she looks on, and we both watch the water swirl down as I push the handle.
If you go out to the kitchen set, you will see that there is toilet paper now. Go ahead and grab a roll for this bathroom.
She does just that, and I once again affirm her desire to help and to problem solve. I remind her that I am always here for times just like this. When the poop piles up.
I don’t use those exact words, but I think them, as I save this memory to reference later when the phone rings or the text comes, and someone else needs help with order.