Wednesday, October 04, 2023

See what I meant? (See: wet cement)

Our basement was finished midway through the day. Andrew went down to verify that they'd done all the contracted work, wrote them out a check, and the workers went on their merry way. 

Phoebe thought this was a very good thing because earlier in the morning they gave her a good fright!

She had enjoyed watching the workers through the window. We talked about how they were loading up rocks to take into the basement, and that they were helpers—that sounds great, right? They were strangers, but they were helpful strangers, and seemed to just be working in the yard. So that's fine. 

And then—while I was upstairs working and the kids were downstairs work and even Phoebe was downstairs playing—one of the men came upstairs to ask if he could use the restroom. There's a restroom in the basement, but it had been cordoned off behind plastic worksheets and a veritable barricade of furniture. I told him that he was, of course, welcome to use our restroom, and showed him where it was (right across the hallway).

Phoebe took this interaction poorly, and I don't blame her.

How do visitors—particularly strangers—usually announce their presence at our home? 

They knock or ring the bell at the front door and then we get to decide whether to allow them entrance or whether we'll send them away. 

Not so today! 

Today a man she'd never met in her life simply materialized in the hallway—the horror!

She was nervous for pretty much the rest of the day, very clingy, very "uppy, uppy, uppy!"

I took her to watch the workers through the window and reminded her again that they are our special helpers and that she doesn't need to be afraid anymore. But...she's just a clingy kid, so that conversation did little to soothe her nerves.

Anyway, let's see...

Here are a couple of pictures Andrew took from the stairs showing the progress of the trench the workers dug in our basement floor:

Here's a view of the trench as they left it yesterday—with the piping placed (for the most part) and partway covered with rocks:

They put up a moisture barrier that is open down to the trench, so any water that happens to come through the foundation will run directly into the drainage system and out into the backyard (in theory; I'm skeptical, so it's a good thing all this labour is guaranteed for the life of the house):

Today they covered the trench with cement after they finished filling it with rocks. After they left, Andrew took me on a tour of the basement, telling me everything that they workers had told him. We couldn't both tour the basement with these strange men because...Phoebe. 

As it was, she insisted on coming into the basement with me and Andrew. The other kids were interested in coming down as well, but we asked them to stay upstairs, promising we'd show them the basement later. We didn't want a bunch of little kids down by the freshly poured concrete.

So, Andrew takes me down there and he explains this and that and the other and then we head outside to look at how the drainage system works outside. He showed a weep hole they'd installed in the brick work where they presume water had been seeping through to the inside of the house, as well as the exit for the entire gravity drainage system. We reattached the downspout, since they'd pulled that off when they were working. And then we went back inside.

"Oh, let me just show you one more thing in the storage room," Andrew said. 

We walked the long way around (rather than sneaking through the gap that currently exists in the wall...because we didn't want to risk accidentally stepping in the cement). He showed me how although it doesn't go to the end of the wall (since there were no issues in that area of the basement), they'd made the system expandable, so they can tap in where they left off and extend if (heaven forbid) they need to. 

And then he panicked and started lifting up his feet to look at the bottom of his shoes. 

"What's wrong?" I asked. 

"One of us seems to have stepped in the concrete," he said. 

I lifted up my shoes to look, too. They seemed fine, but...

"It must have been me," I said. "Though I don't know how. That footprint looks too small to be yours..."

We went back around to look at the footprint more closely. 

"Hmmm..." I said. "That footprint looks too small to be mine. One of the kids was down here."

I glanced at the stairs and saw concrete-footprints muddying up my carpet.

We followed those footprints all the way up the stairs and down the hallway to the entryway, where we found a pair of cement-covered crocs. They were Alex's. 

He was sitting on the couch by Zoë, innocently listening to her read him a Halloween story. 

"Do you...have anything you want to tell us?" we asked. "We already know what happened, but..."

"Hmmmm," said Alexander, lips pursed, forehead creased with concern. "I didn't know what would happen if I went downstairs, and I never expected that."

"Okay, so, remember how we had a Family Night lesson on obedience?"

Like, literally last night. Rachel gave the lesson. We played Simon Says and talked about how following rules is actually...a way to make life easier. This is something that I talk about with my kids every time we do math—all these rules that we're learning help to simplify problems, making you do less work to get the right answer. Same thing is true in life. Rules can really simplify problems and create less work. 

Now, is it important to understand why the rules are there? Sure. But that's not always possible. 

We could have explained that we didn't want the children to step in the wet cement. But then we also would have had to explain that we didn't want them to step on the carpet tack strips, and that we didn't want them to pull on the wires that were dangling about because all our framing was ripped out, and that we didn't want them to trip over rolled up carpet or slip on the plastic the workers put down, which might vault them into the wet cement or cause them to grab a dangling wire, and...and...and...

We could have been there all day explaining all the whys

Sometimes it's just quicker to say, "For now, stay out of the basement. We will take you on a guided tour later."

Is it lazy parenting? I mean, sure. 

But there are many other times we've been willing to supply the why-answers.

And I've been told on two separate occasions (quite recently) that I'm a "faint-hearted" parent, so, like, that probably explains the laziness, too. 

Once was when I put up this little "corn popper" toy that a neighbour gave to Phoebe (second-hand) on the Buy Nothing Group. I wrote, "My daughter loved this but has gotten too…proficient…at using it (and only chooses to use it at inopportune moments—like when all her older siblings are trying to do schoolwork or I am in work meetings). 😂 It’s been sitting in toy timeout for weeks now and she hasn’t missed it, so if you’ve been looking for a new way for your toddler to drive you crazy, now’s your moment!!"

And someone responded, "I have such fond memories of this toy: both when I was a toddler (68 years ago), and then believe it or not for my two children now 35 and 40. I do agree that it is not a toy for faint hearted parents (it works for me since I could keep up with the location of my kids in our fairly small house), it is really really noisy."

Now, full disclosure, I was not remotely offended by this comment that really only hinted that I might be a faint-hearted parent. This person doesn't know me and probably wasn't aware that I am raising six kids (which, makes her faint-hearted by comparison (like raising two kids is even hard)). Another woman who I do know (and who has five kids, herself, and is also a homeschool mom) commented saying, "I guessed who posted this before I read your name Nancy! Neither you nor I need any extra noisemakers in the house! 🤣🤣🤣"

She speaks the truth. We're not faint-hearted. We're just pragmatic—we literally don't need extra noisemakers in the house. There is plenty of noise going on around here.

And, I mean, it's not like I didn't let Phoebe use it—I totally did!

...until she actually learned how to walk and it went from a gentle "pop, pop, pop" to a cacophonous "POP! POP! POP! POP! POP! POP! CRASH! POP! POP! CRASH!" as she went careening around corners at full speed. And then I was like, "This feels like I sometimes toy to me."

Like, there was absolutely no reason she should have access to a toy like that all day long. And then we eventually went so long without her asking about it that I figured she wouldn't miss it if it was gone and that is when I offered it up to the next baby. 

The lucky recipient is a mother to one, and may the odds be ever in her favour.

I'm going to bet that she will eventually put it in toy timeout or give it away. 

Anyway...I think the other recent time that someone called me fainthearted was at a playground when a mom following a toddler and a child around overheard me telling Phoebe that I was tired of...I dunno...pushing her in the swing? Helping her climb a ladder? Whatever it was, I was tired. And this other mom said, "You think you're tired now, just wait until you have two!"

And I was like, "Yes...two children does sound...tricky."

No argument from me: Two children is definitely more tiring than having one! 

Anyway, anyway, anyway...I know best practice is not to lay down the law and say, "This is the rule because I said so."

But also, explaining the whys, hows, and whereofs (wherefores?) for every little thing (or somewhat big thing, in this case) is tiring and sometimes it would just be nice if children trusted that their grown ups were telling them something because it was necessary. 

Unfortunately, children are by nature incredibly curious (and I would hate to squelch their curiosity) so it's not really surprising that Alexander made his way to the basement while we were outside. And it's not really surprising that he stepped in the concrete. 

It's more just...funny. 

But also serious. 

It's the kind of funny thing where you can't really laugh because you don't want your child to think it was okay (because it wasn't), but like...really it kind of was (but absolutely is not a behaviour that should be repeated). You know?

So, we set Alexander to work scrubbing his cement-footprints from the stairs while I smoothed out that corner of the cement (and got to think to myself how I probably could have saved myself from all this work if I had simply taken a minute to explain why we wanted the children to stay out of the and learn, right?)

Everything is nice and smooth down there once again, so no harm, no foul.

We were just thankful it was five-year-old Alexander who ventured into the basement and not five-year-old Benjamin, because Alexander was endowed with a generous helping of the "I've made a terrible mistake" gene, while Benjamin seemed to skip that one in favour of the "THAT WAS AWESOME!" gene. When I imagine five-year-old Benjamin sneaking into the basement, I see footprints everywhere (not just one footprint that he wished he could undo). 

When I took Benjamin on a tour of the basement before dinner (as promised), he was like, "Don't worry. I'm not going to step in the cement or anything!" But then when we got downstairs he was like, "Oooooh! Can I touch it? Can I touch it? Can I just make a handprint? Can I touch it with just one finger? But can I?"

It was very difficult for him to reign in respect the thousands and thousands of dollars we just spent on this project. 

Here's a picture of Alexander by a footprint we noticed on our walk this evening:

"Oh, no—Alexander! Did you step in the cement here, too?!"

"No, I did not!"

"Well, someone did..."

"It was not me. Do you guys even see how my foot is smaller than the footprint? It could not have been me."

"You could have been wearing someone else's shoes..."

"I was not!"

"So you weren't wearing someone else's shoes, but you did make this footprint?"

"No! That is not how this works! I just did not make that footprint! I would never step in wet cement now that I know what happens."

"But, like, maybe you did this before you knew what happened..."

"You guys! I stepped in wet cement one time, okay?! This was not me!"

The poor little guy does not like being teased very much. Unfortunately, he's in the wrong family to have that preference. Hopefully he understands, though, that (1) he is not the only person in the world to have made this particular mistake, (2) mistakes are not set in stone (unless, as you can see in the picture above, they are—haha!) and are thus repairable (even if you have to scrub until your arm is really tired and you have to rinse your cloth out two or three times), and (3) he's a little bit wiser from having made this mistake.

He fixed his mistake (with some help) and learned from it, too! (Hey, this is starting to sound like a Daniel Tiger song!)

Now he's better equipped to help others not make the same mistake because he can explain what happens if you step in wet cement (so that I don't have to), allowing people to learn from his experience rather than having to experience things themselves, so they can incorporate some of those rules in their lives to simplify existing problems (and avoid complicating situations).

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