Friday, March 10, 2006

It's Just Stuff.

The older I get, the more I find myself quoting my mom. Sometimes it's accidental, where I hear her words coming out of my mouth before I have time to rephrase them: "That! Is! E! NOUGH!" Other times I don't realize that I've done it until I have the eerie experience of hearing my mother's inflections falling from my daughter's lips: "Peter, if I have to tell you that one more time..."

This time, though, I'm doing it on purpose: "It's just stuff."

My mom used to say that a lot when things broke or got lost, and it is an attitude that I appreciate and admire much more now that I have my own children. One of my stronger regrets about my teen years is the sight of my mother's tears as she swept up the remains of a cherished teacup. She had been holding it in her hands on top of something else in a grasp that was a little precarious, but nothing irresponsible for an adult taking a stack of stuff from one room to another. She paused in the doorway of the kitchen when I blocked her path, enthusiastically telling her an irrelevant story about a friend, probably for the third or fourth time. She shifted her grip on the teacup and it fell, obviously irreparable as soon as it hit the floor. Fifteen years later I can still hear her voice, fuzzy from recent tears, as she knelt over the shards with a brush and dustpan: "It's just stuff, honey. It's just stuff."

It meant that while some things were irreplacable, nothing was so important that it should be held onto more tightly than people. All of it would someday be broken or burnt or decayed, and the eternal perspective was what mattered. In the meantime, it was a good philosophy for living with a child who seemed to leave more than her share of broken glass in her wake.

I have had to remind myself of this good advice several times this week, sometimes through clenched teeth with a face red from the effort of not packing my son into a crate (with air holes, don't worry) and mailing him to my sister in California. The following is a partial list of the affected "stuff" in my house in the last seven days:

1 bottle lavender hand lotion
1 bottle lavender hand soap
1/2 spray bottle of OxyClean stain remover
4 bottles of nail polish
1 bottle nail polish remover
1 bottle hair gel
1 bathroom sink
about $30 in loose change
4 chocolate cookies
8 peanut butter cookies
1 Portabella mushroom
2 steak knives (not very sharp, fortunately)
1 Power Bar (Peanut Butter flavor)
1 Clif Bar (Chocolate Almond Fudge flavor)
1/2 banana
1 spool of thread
3 board games
1 child-size root beer from McDonald's
3 trial-size tubes of toothpaste
2 tubes Baby Orajel teething gel
1 tube insect bite itch relief cream
1 glass of water
1 small wooden chair
4 decorative pillows
1 large salt-shaker
1 pair of kitchen scissors
1 couch

I'd give you the details, but they're not funny yet, so I'll just leave you with the list. Peter is fast, he is quiet, he is ingenious, and he knows how to wait for the opportunity and then move immediately and disappear completely once his mission is finished. Come to think of it, he'd probably make a great Green Beret.

Until he's in basic training, though, I'll clean up the mess, love my son, and keep telling myself:

It's just stuff ... it's just stuff.


At 3/11/2006, Blogger XSRocks said...

Brenda ~
Your remarking about your mom calling it "just stuff" reminded me of when my brothers and I went through our folk's possessions after they had passed away. All the neat things that we remembered from our childhood had cracks and chips and gouges and pieces missing...and we looked at each piece and then each other and said, "we broke it." And it was true. Particularly mom's nic-nacs. Even though we were forbidden to play with them we somehow had still managed to damage all of them. I wonder now how sad she must have felt when she discovered another of her favorite pieces broken. I guess she got even with us by carefully glueing them back together knowing that some day we would be sitting in a circle in a room dividing these things up between ourselves and we could see the damage we had done.

At 3/12/2006, Blogger El Pastór said...

"It's just stuff" is very funny. I can't believe how many times I've had to take a deep breath, smile at my crying 3 or 4 year old and say, "It's ok (son or daughter), it's just stuff. The important thing is that you're ok" [swallow hard and force smile]. LOL

At 3/15/2006, Anonymous KatnCalsMom said...

Well, this hit home. Apparently the little honeymoon period we had after little Cal arrived has ended. Katie, who has always been the most well behaved child, has started causing destruction and doing things, seemingly on purpose, to anger and distress Scott and I. There have been a few examples over the last week, but yesterday I truly was the most angry I have ever been with her. I went to her room to read her bedtime story to her and found a familiar looking torn piece of paper in a toy as we were doing the nightly before-bed room cleaning. It took me a moment to realize that it was a long stip of wallpaper border from her wall. I put a lot of effort into making her new room nice just a few months ago(as Calvin was going to be taking over the nursery.) I love that my daughter has nice looking things and that I put effort into little details like that. It hurt me to the core that my daughter would just destroy it for no reason. I asked her why and, being as she is a toddler, she had no response. I sent her to bed immediately and left her room in tears. She cried herself to sleep and I cried as my husband explain to me that it was just wallpaper and kids just do that sort of thing. Today, Katie and I shared lots of "I love yous" and hugs. She was desperate for me (Daddy is usually her favorite) to read her bedtime story to her (to the point of wanting to go to bed early.)I do realize that I'm going to have to develop a much tougher skin and take these things in stride. The relationship with my kids (not to mention their safety) is more important. Wallpaper is just stuff. Thanks for the insight. I'm going to go practice. "It is just stuff... It is just stuff..."


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