About halfway through my pregnancy, I began nesting. No surface was safe from my dustrag, no bit of clutter that I couldn’t find a home, and no wall left unpainted. This was hell on my back, but even though my house looks a bit like the Technicolor Dream Coat threw up on it, I think it looks pretty good (if rather bright).
We went with gender-neutral Sunkist orange in the nursery, accented with lime green and lemon yellow. It’s a citrusy palate, and the room faces southwest, so around 3pm the room physically begins to glow. I like it. It’s a sunny, happy room for a sunny, happy girl. It’s especially nice now because we figured out how to get her crib out of our room, and we are ALL sleeping better. Cosleeping fail? I don’t care. I’m well-rested…ish.
Because our apartment is maybe 575 square feet, Maggie’s room is her dedicated play space. And because Maggie is a toddler, her stuff usually breaks free of the room and starts finding its way around the house. Thus it appears as though the proverbial bomb has gone off, which is no fun during the 99.9% of the day that I spend chasing that child through the debris:
Please don’t ask me why my daughter has two rolling pins in her toy collection, or why I’m using my cell phone to take pictures for this post when I have a DSLR. I’m sure I don’t know.
So most nights–not every night–while Tom and Maggie take their evening pre-bedtime walk, I clean. The chunky wood puzzle pieces go back on the boards, all the toys go back in the little green bin. The musical instruments are stacked in their basket and put up high where I can’t bump it and knock it over. Most importantly, Maggie’s favorite familiars–Ugly (“Ug-YEE! UGGYEEEE!”) and Baby Ginger (“Baby! Gin-guh!”)–are located, checked for grossness and spot-cleaned, and then put into her bed to await the enthusiastic drooling kisses of their giant mistress.
Then there are the books. Maggie has an unquenchable thirst for the written word, and we read–and therefore, remove from the shelves–upwards of thirty books a day. Usually twice. I know their shapes and stories as intimately as I know the curve of my daughter’s fist and the way it pounds against the page when she identifies an object she knows. My hands move mindlessly over the covers as I re-shelve them by height or subject: Dr. Seuss books together, same with the seasons books; Little Miss books at the end. Once in a while a few books, especially ones with silly flaps and flimsy pages, are put in a stack for later repair.
Usually the final organization is uniform. Sometimes Maggie listens when I ask her to put a book back on the shelf when we’re done, and those books stay as they are, regardless of shape or author or subject. It’s a long process, this business of learning responsibility. Even if she doesn’t notice, I don’t want to undermine her by “fixing” her hard work. The last thing is to pick a bedtime story.
Eventually, the room comes together.
(What? You didn’t think that orange went all the way to the ceiling, did you? Give me a little credit.)
Maggie’s room is her first laboratory. I start the day with one, maybe two specific activities in mind–coloring with her “CWAY-YONS!” (everything, everything, everything Maggie says transmits in capital letter excitement), perhaps, or practicing some of her Spanish words–but mostly she’s free to roam and explore as she desires, and she does.
I have no illusions about maintaining this pace; likely, another kid or two and I’ll laugh that there was ever a day where I cleaned my toddler’s room most nights. But I enjoy it, this reordering of her little classroom. From the time she pulls out her first book to her last story, she’s taking everything in. We enjoy our daily outings, but this is where we come back to relax and where she can freely indulge her love of books, think about her puzzle toys, or race her wooden cars under the dining room table.
She knows where everything is and how to get it, and I think that’s important. It’s such a little thing to adults, putting a book back on the shelf, but when you’re really small and everything is so impossibly huge and adults are so ridiculous, can you really underestimate how comforting it is to know that your copy of Hop On Pop is exactly where you think it should be? It may not make a difference…but it may make all the difference.
So that, among other things, is how I love my daughter; I set up her sunshiny lab for her so it will be ready for her daily explorations and discoveries. It’s a love thing. Surely I wouldn’t clean like that for just anyone. I love her curiosity, her spark, her CAPITAL LETTER VOICE, everything. I love my Maggie-boo-buttons.
And late at night, when I confidently cross her room to check on her before I go to bed, knowing I won’t trip over anything and wake her, I pull her blankie up around her shoulders and I tell her just that.