I stood in Hobby Lobby with the kids waiting in the perpetual line to check out. As the kids perused all the tantalizing craft items and candy hung temptingly low I considered what the rest of our day looked like. We had a few more errands and then hibernation from the 100+ degree heat. The kids had been getting restless at home and I was desperate to find something for them to do. Just at that moment Lucy held up a package with three containers of what appeared to be an off-brand glitter version of Play-Doh. She pleaded, “Mommy, can we PLEEEEEEEAAAASSEE get this?” I looked at the price – a mere $4. I considered the hours of pleasant play time this would provide while I did laundry and I said happily “sure, babe. This looks like fun.” When we got the package home and opened it up I was a bit surprised to realize that it wasn’t actually the consistency of Play-Doh but more like — well — goobers. It was slightly sticky, liquid and yet also a solid.
The kids could not have been more delighted and hours of play and experimentation transpired without a whimper of argument or whining. The kitchen table was happily occupied and I took the time to finish up some chores around the house. As I sat at my desk doing email Max walked in giggling and said to me, “Lucy is sad and hiding.” I turned around and saw this:
He had stuck this material in his hair and I knew that was going to be VERY bad. I leaped out of my chair and exclaimed, “WHERE IS YOUR SISTER?” Max, still finding the whole situation quite funny said slyly, “She’s hiding.” I instantly knew that if Lucy was hiding it was bad. I started calling her name but she was nowhere to be found. After ten frantic minutes of searching I found her hunched behind the family couch, squeezed next to the wall. Her low whimpers and cries barely audible. “Lucy, what happened Honey? Are you okay?” She stood up and stuck within her curly strands of hair was an entire container of this goober, glittery gunk. It was spread evenly from roots to tip covering the entire front half of her scalp. Tears were streaming down her face and I knew that she felt both shame and panic. “Baby, how did this happen?” She lowered her eyes sniffling and just shrugged her shoulders. I laughed. She cried harder. I suggested we take a picture to send to Daddy and she exploded in embarrassment, “NO!! DON’T TELL DADDY!! I DON’T WANT A PICTURE!!” Her embarrassment was absolute and no amount of assurance from me was going to make her feel better. I calmed her down and told her we would wash it out of her hair and she shouldn’t worry.
We marched into the bathroom where I broke out the baby shampoo and started washing. And washing. And washing. This goop (that was obviously made in China by people who don’t have children) would not come out of her hair. Not even a little bit. I started pulling out every kind of cleaner I could think of to remove this stuff from her hair; baby oil, vinegar, adult shampoo, olive oil, dish soap. Every new solution that I took out made Lucy cry harder and Max giggle. Lucy was frantic and I was starting to get concerned that I was going to have to cut her hair off. After an hour and a bottle of dish soap we finally got the goop out of her hair. Her eyes red and puffy from crying, she stood up and a meek smile spread across her face, “I love you Mama”. Not a true expression of affection, as much as a request to be reassured that I still loved her. “I love you too Honey. Mama isn’t mad at you. No worries. Okay?” Lucy meekly nodded her head and toddled off to watch cartoons.
It was funny. As a matter of fact I burst out laughing several times during the process of washing her hair. It seemed like such a typical thing for a child to do and one of those great stories that every parent has. And yet for Lucy, for sweet rule-abiding, must always be right Lucy, it was a moment of shame. She had ventured outside of the rules (more than likely due to the prodding of her brother) and the universe instantly punished her for it. My heart was sad for her and I wanted her to be able to laugh at herself, at the situation, to see the humor, but perhaps that is too much to ask of a five year old.