Ever since I can remember I’ve always included “putting things back” as a lesson Sam needed to learn. I read somewhere that it takes time for toddlers to process these things which is why you do end up sounding like a broken record. Even after you’ve seen progress in comprehension, you’d still have to repeat it because chances are, when they get excited or distracted about something else, cleaning up is the first thing out the window.
In an effort to make it stick to her smart little brain, I have Sam parrot it back to me. “After you use it, you put it back mom!” She’d reply proudly, picking up things all by herself.
Of course, the habit of packing away isn’t consistent yet and I still find myself constantly reminding her to do it, even if she already knows she has to. I even tried to teach her initiative. “Remember you need to put it away, and do it before Mommy says so!” Either it’s fallen on deaf ears, or maybe she’s too young. But still, I long for the day that she’d do it without any reminder.
Then, one day…
Sam contracted her nth cold. In Filipino, we call this sipon (pronounced sih-pohn, but Sam pronounces it as cee-pawn). In any case, I’ve learned never to leave tissue within her reach because she uses half the box in one go. Instead I leave out small washcloths or what we call pamunas (pronounced pah-mooh-nahs) for her to use. I normally leave one on a table or on her bed, somewhere within reach.
Anyway, I was nursing Jamie in the living room one morning when I heard an explosive sneeze in the bedroom. It was followed by a high-pitched cry, “Oh no! Mommy!” Sam ran out, her nose in the air, her sipon about to fall.
“Sam! Get your pamunas, and wipe it please. Mommy’s feeding Jamie, you have to do it by yourself.”
She ran back into the bedroom, and as I was immobilized I had hoped she found the pamunas. Strangely enough she took longer than I had anticipated and I was worried I’d have to clean up gook on the floor or on the blanket or something of that sort.
Then I hear some scuffling that is followed by a few determined grunts, and then if I wasn’t mistaken, I thought I heard a drawer close shut. “Sam? What are you doing?”
She appears a few minutes later from the doorway and runs straight for me, “I’m so proud of you Mom!” (This normally means she wants me to say it).
Of course before I release such a statement, I need to find out what it is I am proud of. “Why sweetheart, what did you do?”
“I wipe it mom! I wipe my sipon! I did it!” She says with a clap and a jump. What an accomplishment!
“Very good Sam. Where’s the pamunas?”
“I put it back mom!”
I smile relieved. No sipon on the floor? No sipon on the blanket? Indeed I am proud. “You did! Very good!” At that point, Jamie finishes her feed so I plop her nice and content in her bouncy chair and get up to rinse the dirty washcloth.
I head straight to the bed but I don’t see the pamunas. Instead I only find her toys. The floor and the blankets are clean as well. “Sam where‘s your pamunas? I thought you put it back?”
“Yes! Here!” she exclaims proudly runs up to the drawers which hold her clean towels and washcloths and points inside. I tentatively open it with a looming sense of doom, and lo and behold, staring back at me is the used, snot-filled pamunas, nestled in quite comfortably infecting all the other clean items. There was no way to remove it without somehow dirtying parts of the other pieces as well.
I wince and turn to look at Sam and she is looking back at me with smiling eyes and a huge grin plastered from ear to ear, waiting for me to say something. “I’m so proud of you mom!” She hints.
The Moral of the Story: Mental note: Buy more detergent.