A Toddler's Lesson on Accountability

No one holds me as accountable for anything as my two-year old does for everything.  

The other day I was getting Brayden ready to go to school. We took one last trip to the bathroom before heading out the door. As he was doing his business, he commented that I needed to clean the toilet. Oh, really, little man. You can eat food off the floor without flinching but can’t pee into a toilet that is a bit less sparkly than it could be. I laughed at his very high standard of bathroom cleanliness and ushered him to the sink to wash his hands. “Please clean the toilet for me, mommy” he pleaded in that sweet little voice he usually reserves for requesting an extra book at bedtime or five more minutes of hockey before dinner. 

“I’ll clean it while you are at school”, I said to appease his concern, as silly and ironic as it seemed. And there it was. An empty promise. In my defense, it was a completely unintentional one. I typically use Brayden-free Friday mornings to do these types of chores because it’s easier to clean toilets and resurface hockey rinks mop floors while only having to keep the potentially dangerous cleaning supplies away from ONE toddler. It just so happens that on this particular Friday, that one toddler took a random morning nap. And this chronically sleep-deprived mother took one too.

Fast forward a couple of hours and it was time for pick-up. Feeling refreshed from a nap and a shower, I applauded myself for successful time management during the morning. Little did I know, I wasn’t deserving of this self-praise. Because the very first thing my darling Brayden asked when he spotted me at the door to his classroom was, “Mommy! Did you clean the toilet?” While his teachers found this hilarious, I was a bit humiliated. I mean, what would my kid’s excitement over a clean toilet imply of my housekeeping? Of this poor child’s living conditions? Not to mention that fact that I hadn’t actually cleaned the toilet… so I was both a keeper of dirty washrooms AND a liar. Ugh. Mommy fail.

On the ride home, I fessed up that I hadn’t gotten around to cleaning the toilet. Fortunately, Brayden was very forgiving. But the whole situation made me think about how loosely I sometimes say I’m going to do things. How the other day, he’d nearly cried when Tyler ripped a page of one of his books and I’d yet to tape it like I promised. How I’d forgotten to get strawberries elsewhere after we saw they were sold out on our last grocery shop. They are harmless things really. But that’s not the point. The point is that follow-through is so incredibly important. I don’t know that I will forever doom my child to issues with accountability if I fail to do those little things I say that I’ll do now. But, what if? I shuddered to think.

I knew what had to be done. The toilet didn’t really need to be cleaned, but I needed to model follow-through. So that’s what I did when Brayden was napping. And guess what happened later that afternoon when he used the sparkly, fresh bathroom…

Did I see flashes of his future, a future full of follow-through… a seven-year old teaching Tyler to tie his shoes to make good on a promise, a teenager replacing the toilet roll like I made him swear he would, a new father taking his own babies to the park like he said he would? Ok, not really. But I did get a very adorable smile and a gracious “Thank you mommy for cleaning the toilet for me!” And that’s more than I need to keep me doing those little things… taping the ripped page of his favorite book, remembering strawberries at the grocery store, cleaning the bathroom... Because those small, seemingly insignificant things actually matter. To one of the people that matters most. 


I married a good one.

Marry someone who can make you laugh. It doesn’t need to be constant fits of rolling on the floor laughter. Little laughs when you need them most are just as important, and maybe even more so. In other words, comedic timing often trumps the intensity of hilarity.

It was one of those days where the boys were being especially difficult. They each wanted different things at different times, and seemed intent on annoying/physically harming one another. I spent the majority of the morning moving from one failed activity to another, wrangling the boys in and out of their carseats, and putting together food that was ultimately getting tossed on the floor. My patience was thinner than I care to admit, I was tired, and I felt defeated. Thankfully, Kevin had just walked in the door. He assessed the situation with a pair of fresh eyes, and must have instantly gauged my distress. He took over the babies and ushered me out the door to run the errands that had been mounting up over the previous few hectic days. I quickly briefed him on what exactly he was walking into, feeling somewhat guilty to be walking out.

All of this transitioning happened routinely, a quick and efficient communication about the afternoon’s division of responsibility. We were a team and this was our plan of attack. I felt relieved just knowing I wasn’t alone. And then to be given a much-needed break too! (Funny how running errands without children in tow qualifies as a break, isn’t it?)

I loved my husband in that moment, as he turned bravely towards the battlefield cries in the kitchen. But I loved him even more when I explained how Tyler had dropped my phone in such a way that the battery was lost under the washer. That was when he handed me his own phone to borrow. And with a playful smile, he said “If any of my girlfriends call, just take a message”. That was all it took. I felt muscles in my face relax that I hadn’t even realized were tense. I took a breath, and I laughed. And it was just what I needed. Humor in the height of chaos, a quick-witted line that reminded me it was all going to be okay, that I had the best possible partner for all this craziness. I think this a lot for a lot of different reasons, but it won’t ever stop being true: I married a good one.