When Left To Their Own Devices


Lately, I’ve been allowing the toddlers to play more independently.

Independent of me, that is.

They play with one another, if you could call it it that.

It’s more like arguing, bickering and fighting, but that is the subject of another post. For now, let’s say they play together in one part of the house (upstairs) while I am doing something else in another part of the house (downstairs).

That something else I am doing is usually picking up their stuff around the house, washing their dirty laundry (it never ends), and occasionally, to release some stress, I write on this blog while they are otherwise occupied.

But, when left to their own devices, a brief exercise in independence by the toddlers will often end up in a household disaster. Such was the case, recently. And this is a tale of that disaster.

You won’t believe what she’s done now!

I wrote in a postscript to a previous post that just as I was finishing up writing that post, a strong odor of menthol came wafting down the stairs and into my office, followed closely by Kaleb.

Before I could press the Publish button for my just-completed post, I jumped up from my desk and ran upstairs in search of the source of the smell with Kaleb pointing the way toward the calamity that was in progress and being perpetrated by his little sister.

Whoever coined the phrase, the “Terrible Two’s” didn’t have a three-year-old, yet!

Whatever adjective describes something worse than “terrible” should have the noun “three’s” immediately following it.

I think what makes three-year-old behavior particularly egregious is that they are so much smarter than two-year-olds. So their misbehavior is almost always premeditated misconduct! (For a list of reasons why age three is more terrible than age two, check out this post from Scary Mommy. Warning: She uses some strong language that we don’t use on this blog; she is, indeed, scary, but clever!)

But, I digress. Back to the story…

When I arrived upstairs, the air was thick with the smell of Metholatum. It was somehow eery and I was almost afraid of what I might find.

Nevertheless, I expected the worst and I wasn’t disappointed!

I glanced around but Kenzie was nowhere to be seen. Kaleb had followed me back upstairs and informed me that she was hiding under the bed.

The smell was so strong and I couldn’t tell which bedroom Kenzie was hiding in, Kaleb’s or hers. Kaleb pointed to his room and I walked around the bed and into a corner beside his bed, and there was evidence that she had recently been there with the jar of Mentholatum.

The wood floor in the corner of the bedroom was slick from a thin coat of Metholatum that covered it. As I continued my inspection I could see greasy streaks up (or down) the wall.

So I got down on my knees and looked under the bed, but she wasn’t there, though her odor was quite present. I knew she had recently been there!

I ran and got some towels and wet them down and quickly tried to clean up the floor and the wall a little, and then continued on my search.

I followed the scent and it seemed to lead into her bedroom, around her bed, and into a corner beside the bed, just as the trail had led to a dark corner in Kaleb’s room.

And, again, in the corner of the bedroom, the wood floor was covered with a film of Metholatum, there were greasy streaks all over the wall, and there was a big wad of Mentholatum stuck to her little pink chair that occupied one corner of her bedroom. (I won’t give more specific details of what it looked like was wiped all over that chair; I’ll leave that to your imagination!)

I looked under her bed, and there she was.

Hiding under the bed, but showing no fear!

I reached for her but all I could grab was an empty jar of Metholatum with most of what was left in the jar stuck to it’s outside.

I demanded that she surrender, that she get out from under the bed. She was covered with the stuff and she was spreading it to everything that she came into contact with.

Finally, she decided she had no other choice but to turn herself in, and she relented. When her little head popped out from under the bed, there was a grin on her lips accompanied by a little twinkle in her eyes.

Caught red-handed, but more like smelly, greasy-handed!

To this three-year-old, it was a successful mission, a great accomplishment, that she had just completed!

She got to play with the jar of Mentholatum she is expressly forbidden to touch, and she was doubly delighted by the anger and frustration she saw on my face!

So I put her in the bath tub and scrubbed the Mentholatum off of her, washed and re-washed her hair several times to get the greasy substance out, scrubbed the floors under and around the beds in both bedrooms, wiped off the walls and the furniture, and promptly put her to bed.

Sure, I was upset, but I got over it, and Poppy’s New Adventure has moved on to its next chapter.

So, maybe you’re wondering, is there a moral to this story? Is there a lesson to be learned?

The only thing I can say for sure is that if she is left to her own devices and if given another opportunity to play with a jar of Mentholatum, I have no doubt whatsoever that she would do the same thing all over again and savor every moment of it!

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