Note to Self: Respond Sooner

When Sophie feels the boys are doing something she perceives to be terribly wrong she begins screaming “No, Owen! No, James! No, no, no, no, no, no, NO!” When that doesn’t work, she finds me. The conversation typically goes something like this:

Sophie: “Mommy! Mommy! Mom! MOM! MOOMMM!”

Me: “What, Sophie?”

Sophie: “Come quick! Owen is doing something he shouldn’t!”

Me: “What is he doing?”

Sophie: “He’s touching the couch.”

Me: “Owen is allowed to touch the couch.”

Sophie: “Oh.” (And then, to Owen): “You can touch the couch, Owen. Mommy said it’s OK.”

Typically she’s on the verge of hysteria throughout such an exchange—which is why today’s, shall we say, mishap, surprised me.

Everyone was upstairs. I knew Owen and James were either in their bedroom or the playroom. I was in my bedroom, dressing. Sophie casually walked in.

Sophie: “Mom, come look at Owen.”

No screaming. No hysteria. In fact, no sense of urgency at all. So, my response:

Me: “Hold on, Soph.”

Sophie stood there, patiently, while I sniffed my jeans to see if they smelled too much like stale breast milk and contemplated how wrinkled was too wrinkled when it came to my sweater. About a minute passed, though, and she got (only slightly) impatient.

Sophie: “But Mommy, it’s really funny!”

I froze. I’ve been a mom long enough to know that “really funny” = not good.

I ran to the boys’ bedroom. James was playing with a puzzle. No Owen.

I turned around to look into the playroom. And there Owen stood, at the craft table, brown marker covering his entire face. I started to yell “No!” when I noticed something strange. It wasn’t just marker on his face—it was marker dripping off of his face.

At first I was confused. Did he get into paint? But then I saw his jaws move, his tongue working itself around the inside of his mouth. He was eating something.

Most kids color themselves. Most kids chew on markers. My kid, apparently, bites off the tip of the marker and tries to eat it.

I so wish I had a picture of this. But I don’t. I went into auto-mom-fix-it mode. I extracted the tip of the marker from his totally brown mouth. I cleaned him up, as best I could. I was thankful the marker was washable. I wondered just how “non-toxic” non-toxic really is.

And while doing all of this, Sophie, who usually flips out when the boys so much as look at her craft supplies tells me, “It’s OK, Mom. I think he was just trying to make himself look pretty.”

“Coloring outside the lines is a fine art.” —Kim Nance