The contents of the refrigerator were strewn across my kitchen floor. I nearly slipped in a puddle of yogurt and broke my neck. “Frank! Leo!” I shouted. I found the culprits in the powder room, giggling beneath a confetti shower of toilet paper and random objects (a bottle of mustard?!?!). I called their father right away.
“In the 30 minutes I spent working on my computer, they’ve completely decimated the house!” I said.
“They’re doing it to get your attention,” he said. “Go outside, forget about your work for a while, and do something fun with them.”
It was either that or begin to attack the mess while they tore into another room. Why do they need to be so destructive? Why can’t they play with their toys and leave everything else alone? These and other questions I asked myself as I put on their shoes.
Then, it dawned on me. Maybe we needed to create something together. I looked at our drab fence and thought about how fun it would look with some color. I grabbed my crate of acrylic paints and some brushes and told Frank we were going to paint the fence.
Frank is not a big fan of arts and crafts, so he shoved the paint brush back into my hand and shouted out letters for me to paint. Leo watched on from his tricycle. The first word was “torn.” The second word was “yellow.” Then, it was words that start with “w.” In guiding my brush with his voice, Frank was showing me what he knows.
While I was painting, a sense of calm overpowered me. I forgot all about the mess waiting for me inside the house. All that mattered in that hour was my little muse and the picture we were creating together. Even though Frank didn’t pick up the brush himself, he was engaging in an exercise in imagination, where the things inside his head revealed themselves on the wooden posts at the other end of my paintbrush. I even learned a few things about him, like that he knows his ABCs backwards. And maybe when he’s upending dresser drawers and shoving slices of pizza down the sink, it’s the same kind of experience for him.
I highly doubt Frank wreaks havoc upon my house because he’s malicious. He doesn’t want me to be mad. It’s just his way of exploring the world. I think I’ll spend more time navigating those journeys, even if we never leave our back yard.