A: Play-doh in the carpet. (And, yes, I mean "in," not "on," because after the Play-doh crumbs fall on the carpet, they are inevitably ground into it by someone's Croc-clad foot.)
But, you know what else is hard about being a counselor that works with families and kids? Being a parent that is a counselor that works with families and kids.
As the school year came to a close, my son's kindergarten class was doing an "Alphabet Countdown" to the last day of school. "T" day was "Teddy Bear Picnic" day and each child was allowed to bring a teddy bear from home. The letter from the teacher specifically said "Teddy bears should be NO LARGER than a backpack."
Sparky and I spent the evening before Teddy Bear Picnic day discussing which teddy bear would be making the trip to school with him the next day. Sparky is notorious for having a difficult time making decisions, especially when he has his mind set on something.
We have approximately 63,000 teddy bears in our house. We were able to narrow the choices down to four. Three of these fit the size requirements. One was as big as the six-year-old that wanted to take it to school for the picnic.
We talked it out. We discussed the pros and cons. I set clear limits. "Okay, Sparky. You don't have to decide on which bear to bring tonight, but you can NOT bring the big bear. Your teacher said it has to fit inside your backpack."
The morning was typical. Sparky had to get a ride to school for P.E. club early; the rest of us were rushing to get to where we needed to be on time as well. After my husband and Sparky had left for school, I walked by Sparky's bedroom and saw all of the approved teddy bears still on the bed.
I raced to get my cell phone. Sparky must have forgotten his teddy bear. The phone rings and my husband answers. "Sparky forgot his teddy bear!" I told him.
"No, we've got it," he says. I felt my forehead crease in confusion.
"You do?" I began to put the pieces together. "Which one did he bring?"
"The big one. He buckled it into the seat next to him."
My stomach sank as my frustration built. This was deliberate; he knew which one to bring. My Mom instinct kicked in: I can leave right now, rush to the school, bring an appropriate teddy bear, and just be a few minutes late to work, thus saving the day in SuperMom fashion.
Then, the Counselor brain chimed in: He knew which teddy bear he was supposed to bring. If he doesn't have the teddy bear, he'll be okay, and maybe he'll learn something in the process.
I knew what would come next. The Mom Guilt. But what if he is the only one without a teddy bear? What if he feels left out? It really isn't that big a deal for me to bring up a different one for him. I don't want him to feel sad when it would be SO EASY for me to make it right!
That Counselor nag started hurling psychological mumbo-jumbo at me. Love and Logic! Natural consequences! Enabling behavior!
I sighed. I explained to my husband the situation. We made Sparky leave the teddy bear in the car and he teared up a little, but pulled it together by the time they arrived at school. (The teacher ended up having a few extra teddy bears for the kids who forgot theirs, so my Mom Guilt felt somewhat appeased.)
Ultimately, the Counselor side won this battle.
But, it is an ongoing war to make hard choices about how to parent. I *know* what I should do; I often *feel* like I should do something else. Luckily, I don't think I've messed up too badly... so far. :)
I know you know what I mean.
The World's Okayest Mom