Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Mrs. Fix-It

One of the things that I love most about being a mom is this magic power I seem to have spontaneously acquired which allows me to fix just about anything, from a skinned knee to a broken toy to a stained shirt. My children bring the damaged items to me with absolute faith that I will be able to restore them to their original conditions. Occasionally, particularly in the case of my son (a.k.a. DestructoBoy), the toy is broken beyond repair, and we have a little discussion about taking care of our things and then decide whether we can still play with the broken toy or whether it’s time to send it to the Great Toy Box in the Sky. But most of the time, a little creativity combined with a kiss, some Elmer’s Glue, or a needle and thread, will put everything back to rights.

I’m not sure exactly how my children’s belief in my magical restorative powers began. I suppose it could have been the first time they pulled apart two Legos and sadly held them up for my inspection, and I stuck them back together. Or, knowing my son, perhaps it was a toy truck that he had pulled a door off of, and I popped it back into place.

It might even have been a beloved shirt covered in mud (no doubt resulting in a sad, “uh-oh!”) that miraculously re-appeared in their dresser sans stain. I know that I’ve been kissing their boo-boos away since before they could talk. And somehow, over the course of time, the legend of mom’s ability to fix anything was born, and grew.
Unfortunately, when my son was around two years old, my fix-it ability resulted in his developing a very cavalier attitude towards breaking toys and tearing books. The words, “We can fix it with glue and tape!” became an all-too familiar refrain (his words, not mine). I had to rein in my ability in order to discourage him from destroying everything in the house. Occasionally, I would even inform him sadly that a book was beyond repair, but then secretly fix it and hide it for a while before returning it to the bookshelf. Eventually he learned to be somewhat more careful with books, but despite my “failures” to fix some books, he still came to me with complete faith in my ability to fix anything.
My daughter, at 20 months old and with somewhat limited verbal skills, has already begun her trip down this trusting path. Just yesterday, when I went to get her after her nap, she held up a teddy bear with a gaping three-inch hole in a back seam, and handed her to me with a sad, “Uh-oh! Oh, no!” and an expectant look. She watched me intently as I pulled out a needle and thread and carefully stitched the hole closed. When I handed the bear back to her and told her, “All better!”, she broke into a huge grin and gave the bear a tight hug and me a cheery, “Tank oo!!”
I’m sure that at some point in the future, my children will realize that I can’t magically fix everything. A broken arm that can’t be kissed away, a favorite toy smashed beyond the help of “glue and tape”, a broken friendship that can’t somehow be wrestled back into place, a broken heart that is beyond the help of even the coolest band-aid. The realization that Mom is, after all, only human, is a big milestone in a child’s life. That knowledge is one of the things that will start them on the path to adulthood.
But fortunately, if they continue along that path to adulthood, I have no doubt that someday they too will acquire magic fix-it skills in the eyes of a child, whether it be their own child or someone else’s. It’s a legacy that I can’t wait to pass along.

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