Thursday, June 13, 2013

Toy Jail

Recently we had a bit of an explosion in our house.  The girls had left their room in utter disaster AFTER having been told to clean it before their naps.

I feel at 4, 5, and 7 they are old enough to take responsibility for their belongings.  They've even proven in the past they ARE capable of cleaning up their messes.  On a number of occasions they've been sent to their room prior to naps to 'clean'.  After much giggling, playing, and not much cleaning - time would be up.  I'd come to tuck them in with the announcement that I would be in AFTER nap with a trash bag since they didn't accomplish their task.

Quietly, during nap time, the 2 girls who nap together would pool their resources and clean like nobody's business.

This scenario had played out more than once, I'm ashamed to admit.  Proud of the girls for finally getting the job done, but ashamed that I allowed disobedience to fester.

On this recent occasion, daddy tucked them in for nap, so there was no 'warning' of the trash bag fairy making a visit.

Being old enough to get themselves out of bed; being distracted by the myriad of tasks on my own to-do list; I had not returned to their room to 'monitor' progress on the assigned cleaning task.

The evening progressed.

We had a fun-filled-family-movie-night watching The Princess Diaries 2.  Also referred to as The Princess Diarrheas by some cute little girls in our household.

Bedtime arrived.  Big kids were slowly meandering on their evening chores.  Littles were pittering around half heartedly getting ready for bed.  Mom's patience was waning thin.

Charity had a toy whip she'd found in the toy room - mine from childhood - as she attempted to whisk it through the air, I cautioned her of the inappropriateness of swinging it in the living room.

Off she went.

Moments later Trinity arrived.  Charity had inadvertently knocked a lamp over in their room shattering multiple bulbs.  The culprit?  The whip.

Deep breath.

Next Jacob appeared.  "It wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the complete mess in the girls' room."

Deeper breath.

Attempting to remain calm, I instructed everyone to stay in the living room. I told Selah to get her PJ's on - for the second or third time -- I couldn't recall.

Deepest breath.

I walked toward the back bedroom.

This is where things turned ugly.

That mess I'd told the girls to clean?  It was even bigger than I'd last seen it.  Barbies, clothes, stuffed animals, pipe stem cleaners, even a container of bandaids -- EVERYWHERE!

I marched to the kitchen, scolding little girls as I went.  Grabbed a black garbage bag.  Belting out my displeasure over their lack of obedience as I stomped back to their room.

Thrusting toys - after shaking off shattered glass - into the bag, I made my way through their room.

The bag full, I vacuumed up all the broken light bulbs. Changing sheets on Charity's bed to ensure she didn't sleep on shards of glass, I muttered my unhappiness.

Mission accomplished, I dredged the bag of toys and treasures from the girls room announcing they were to be thrown out.  Tears threatened to flow from their little eyes.

I wasn't proud of my actions - or more adequately, my reactions to the situation.

I had lost my temper.

I sent the girls to bed and sat down to 'cool off'.

Knowing full well I wasn't going to 'throw away' all those toys.  I changed directions.

I slowly plodded my way back to the girls' room.  Breathing deeply as I went.

Calmly this time, I spoke to them.  First, I apologized for 'losing it'.   Next I reminded them of what they had been asked to do earlier in the day.  Asking them if they knew I'd put everything in a trash bag if it weren't done?

"Yes", they all nodded and whispered.

From this point, I assured them the toys were not to be thrown away, but.... they were in TOY JAIL! 

To free their items from toy jail, the girls would need to keep their rooms cleaned; their belongings put away; they would need to obey 'the first time'.  Over the week, the toys would be released from prison based on improvement in these areas.

I'm not proud of how I reacted 'in the moment', but I'm humbled for the opportunity to teach our girls a beneficial skill.  Stretched to realize my own fault in their lack of obedience.  Thrilled for the reconciliation I nurtured between myself and my precious little girls.

God continues to work in my heart as I attempt to work in theirs.


  1. What a beautiful story. It hits so close to very same experience. I have to believe that our kids learn more from our failings and then our confession than from our perfection. I am honored to walk the same walk with you!

    1. Thanks, Danika. I agree with you. I'm glad I've learned I don't have to be or look perfect in front of my children. They can learn from my mistakes as well as their own. Honored to call you friend.


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