Crayon Peelings and Feelings
By Christie Perkins
That concerns me.
So, I go looking for the reason for the silence. I quickly scan each room. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Then…
A pile of crayon peelings is staring me down. We exchange glances- me and the pile of crayon peelings. Actually, I’m glaring and it’s singing and dancing in cutesy little curls. It’s oblivious to my frustrations.
It’s having a party after all.
I groan. I had just spent the entire day spiffing up the house and now I’m miffed by this little pile. And, yes, it’s little. My three year old is beside the pile, under the table, quite amused with his project.
Exasperated I scrunch my face, “Really?” I puff through my lips to avoid growling. I take back my breath and say in carefully measured words (imitating patience) “You need to pick this up.”
I know it’s a little thing but consequences must be enforced. I know that it will take much more energy to battle it out than to just do it myself but once again- consequences, consequences.
And suddenly he’s melting into a pile on the floor. “I can’t do it,” he said. “You do it Mommy.”
“You made the mess so you get to do it.” I point out the obvious response to such a request.
More melting and funny face shifting eats our time over the next 10 minutes.
At this point I’m ready to scribble out the consequences when I come up with an evil plan instead. “Fine. You do my dishes and I’ll pick up your crayon mess.” I chuckle inside. I know exactly where this will lead. He’ll see my mountain of crusty dishes and agree to stick to his eensy pile. I’ll stick to mine.
And he will be rewarded with the “Obedient Child” tagline while I earn the “Mean Mom” title. Not that I want that title, but I am a little annoyed at the meltdown from the drafty crayon situation.
But then it all backfires. What do you expect? I’m bargaining with a three year old.
“Ok,” he said.
His “ok” becomes an unwritten one sided contract. Now I’ve got his load and mine. At least I think I do.
The dragging of a chair catches my attention. He’s headed to my location at the kitchen sink. And for a brief moment I doubt this is going to turn out very well (ok, ok, it’s more of a drawn out 10 minutes of doubt). I give a few brief instructions: cups on top, plates on bottom… he already knows where the silverware goes.
And then I have to just walk away. Meanwhile visions of buggered up plates and pooled water on wood planks dance in my head. My three year old is handling my favorite dishes.
I know, gasp if you must.
Consequences, consequences. This time the saying goes for me.
In a scoop and a half I gather up the crayon peelings. My eyes remain locked onto the dynamic dish layer. Not even one of them breaks or chips. It’s a miracle. He finishes the task long after I’m done but we are both happy- I get out of doing dishes and and he gets out of his overwhelming situation.
And suddenly I’m coming up with another evil plan: I wonder if he can Ajax the bathtub?
6 Tips to Overcoming Overwhelming Tasks
Tips I learned from my 3-year old:
1- If You Find Yourself Piled High in Your Own Mess- Switch Tasks:
The dishes look way more fun. Yeah, you know there’s probably a personality problem if the dishes look fun.
I realize this may be the problem in the first place. It’s called procrastination when you preoccupy yourself with other “important things” that you never get to the things that are pressing on you. Professional procrastinators perfect this skill. Yeah, unfortunately I would know. If that’s the case switch tasks to the problem that you need to get done.
I know, it’s brilliant.
Now, if you are on the other end of the problem where you are swirling around in an overwhelming task, step away from it and do something else. You might find some inspiration in another task to help you master your current problem. If nothing else, you allow yourself to power down so you can gear up for a more powerful start up.
2- Involve Yourself in Someone Else’s Mess:
Dishes were much more pleasing than the self created pile of crayon peelings. But it wasn’t, necessarily, easier. High school senior, Taryn, shared an experience of working on family history. She said that her and her friend were both stuck on their family lines when they decided to work on each others task. The result: names were uncovered on each line that could be reserved for temple work.
What a powerful illustration of how serving someone else actually helps yourself out in a very direct way. Serving someone else can be coloring your world in ways that you don’t even understand yet.
Solving someone else’s problems is always easier than your own.
3- If You’re Having a Meltdown, Consult With Someone Else:
Just a listening ear will help you muddle through your problems. I’ve hung up the phone after profusely thanking someone for helping me with my problems only to realize they didn’t give me any solutions, they just listened. I was able to work out my own problems by simply talking with someone else. It’s as if those bottled up words just needed to ink blotch the air. Your first draft of words may come out in splats and puddles of ink but the final draft will be magnificent. Get it out so you can move on.
And believe it or not, sometimes advice from others (like doing the dishes) is just the solution that you need to succeed.
4- The Words “I Can’t” Stops All Progress:
You will melt into a little puddle on the floor once you start feeding yourself negative talk. In third grade I had a reading Mom who told us that in their house “I can’t” was a cuss word. I have since learned that how you think about something, anything, affects the outcome- or at least the joy of the journey. But, really at the heart of negative talk is that you start to believe it. It’s not other people that put limitations on you, it’s what you believe about yourself that makes or breaks you.
Go ahead, load up that dishwasher and watch some mouths flap open.
5- If You Suspect a Mess, Plan Ahead:
I guarantee a mess. I know, it totally sounds pessimistic but how can your tasks not disrupt the groove you’ve already pre-mastered? Schedules change, relationships tweak, problem solving skills are tested; finances may fumble. Something is going to get messed up. It’s a very natural part of the learning curve and it’s ok.
Predict some consequences and make a plan. Plan for a better balance, make that plan now and learn to sift out the unnecessary so that your time and energy are spent on what is most important. Mistakes sometimes help us figure out priorities. So, don’t beat yourself up for mistakes- they are helping you.
And by all means, if you’re going to peel crayon wrappers- grab a garbage can.
6- Enjoy your work
A pile of crayon peelings were appealing to my little guy. But, the work behind it completely overwhelmed him. Work should be enjoyable but how do you tell someone to enjoy what they are doing if the nature of the beast is an ugly little thing?
The journey is sometimes the fun part, but, lets get real here. In most cases the joy doesn’t come until after your efforts have been perfected and completed. But, remember, completion can come in a series of little accomplishments along the way.
Find something to celebrate daily, however small it is.
So if you are working hard at something just realize your building up little joy pockets that will burst out at random, sometimes unexpected, moments. That’s the fun of hard work- the unexpected pay days.
You are Far More Capable Than You (or your Mama) Realize
You have something in you that only you can do in this world. I firmly believe this. And I’m not just talking about the dishes. It’s the character traits we acquire while doing the dishes that catches our attention.
I think we all come wired with a surprise element. Something that even we don’t realize is hidden within us. Have you discovered yours yet? Yes, the task ahead may be overwhelming but realize that it is shaping you into something grand- something more than you realized you could be.
I have a favorite quote by Nelson Mandela that I keep next to my nightstand, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us… We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us: it is in everyone!”
Go ahead and surprise us. Oh, the awesome consequences that await us when we overcome overwhelming tasks.
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