There is not a day that goes by in my house when boys aren’t rummaging around in the art cabinet, pulling out supplies. Sometimes they’re searching for the latest coloring book, because they want to scribble on a few of the pages and call it done. Sometimes they’re looking for some blank drawing paper, because they just got the idea to create this really interesting-looking snake and now they have to see it for real, instead of just in their heads. Sometimes they’re trying to find the pages they stapled yesterday so they could work on the comic book they chose as this year’s art project.
And sometimes, in their rummaging, they find the glue and scissors, which, of course, immediately changes their plans.
These are my least-favorite art days.
I don’t mind the glue so much. Sure, it gets on hands, which get rubbed all over the glass-top table and make nice little streaks that are really fun to scrape off later. Sure, it gets accidentally dripped on three sheets of paper that then get stacked and stuck together and we have to figure out how to get them apart without ripping a single paper fiber off because the 6-year-old really wants to keep them for his art portfolio. Sure, sometimes the boys lick their fingers clean and won’t admit that it tastes maybe a little bit good.
No, the glue doesn’t bother me.
It’s the scissors that kill me.
This is because my boys use them irresponsibly. What this means is that scissors have been banned from our house more than once, because one of them has decided his bangs are too long and he’s just going to cut them himself. He assumes, in making this decision, that his parents are probably never going to take him in for a haircut, and he can surely do this himself without coming out looking like a fool. (Nope. That would be a fail.) Or one of them has used the scissors to satisfy his burning curiosity about what a few cuts might do to a shirt, and now he has a huge hole in an otherwise perfectly fine shirt (why couldn’t he experiment on the shirt with permanent stains?). Or one of them decides to cut paper.
Now. It may not seem like paper is all that bad a thing to cut, especially after the hair and the shirt. BUT. The problem with paper is that it gets EVERYWHERE. And I mean everywhere. It’s like glitter’s first cousin.
Kids don’t just like to cut out something normal, like the picture they colored of that minion, and then leave it at that. Oh, no. That would be way too easy for parents. They’ll cut out that traced picture of a minion, and then they will cut up that background of the minion into tiny little pieces because they love making a mess they can’t possibly clean up, especially once it spills off the table and onto the carpet. And if they’re feeling really adventurous and it’s your lucky day, they’ll glue all those tiny little paper pieces to the table while you’re upstairs trying to manage the 3-year-old who refuses to use his legs to walk, because he’s making a statement.
My boys get some hair-brained ideas when it comes to scissors. The 8-year-old once decided he was going to cut out some Legend of Zelda paper dolls that he had drawn. He drew fourteen of them and then left the cutting extras and the scissors out so while I was preparing an elaborate dinner of cold carrots and hummus (it’s all I can manage most days), the 3-year-old twins picked up those left-out scissors and went to town on all the leftover paper, the carpet, and each other’s hair. They ended up looking like identical orphans.
The 6-year-old once decided he was going to make some confetti for his birthday party, except he didn’t tell us until those 3-year-olds (yes, there’s a theme in my house) got a hold of the pouch where he’d stashed it and dumped all four billion pieces out onto the living room floor.
The 5-year-old, now, he just likes to practice cutting his coloring pages, which wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t twelve coloring pages every day.
Because of all these delightful encounters with scissors, they have now moved to the top shelf of the art cabinet, too high for boys to reach on their own. But that doesn’t stop them, of course. Any time Mama or Daddy disappears into the bathroom or is distracted by dinner or a phone call comes through (you wonder why I never answer my phone? Because kids.), they’ll drag a chair all the way across the room and stand on it to find this greatest treasure of all treasures. Before we even know what’s happening, our house looks more like the Paper Bowl than the Dust Bowl.
It’s really hard to tidy a house when you have one hundred billion tiny little pieces of paper all over the floor. Why not use a vacuum cleaner? you might be thinking. These tiny papers are so good at being tiny that a vacuum cleaner doesn’t really pick them up, so we mostly have to use our hands, and, go ahead, judge me, I don’t really feel like picking confetti out of the carpet when it’s time to get dinner on the table. I’m pretty much done.
The other problem is that boys are really good at manipulation. Take this conversation:
Them [whispering because they think I can’t hear]: Can you reach the scissors? I need the scissors.
Me [in the other room, preparing dinner]: Oh, no you don’t. You are not using the scissors. Don’t even think about it.
Them: Aw. I just need to cut this one thing.
Me: What one thing? Come show me. [You know, because I’m a good parent.]
Them: This picture I’m coloring.
Me: That’s all you’re going to cut?
Me: Alright, just that one thing. [Because maybe we can try again.]
Me: Just that one thing. Only that one thing. The one thing, and that’s it. Then you put them away. [They don’t hear anything unless you say it three times, at least.]
They nod, so maybe we have a win?
Nope. Five minutes later there are four pictures cut out of the coloring book, and the scraps have managed to carpet the floor, and the twins are stealing the scissors from their brothers and trying to show just how much they know about this whole cutting thing and it’s all over. It’s all over. There is so much to tidy up we can’t even.
So. I hide the scissors. The boys find them. I know, because I find the paper scraps and the orange peel scraps and the hair snippets and the mangled toys and everything else they use the scissors to cut.
One of these days. Sometimes I feel like I live for one of these days.
This is an excerpt from The Life-Changing Madness of Tidying Up After Children, the second book in the Crash Test Parents series. To get access to some all-new, never-before-published humor essays in two hilarious Crash Test Parents guides, visit the Crash Test Parents Reader Library page.