Did you know children have a sixth sense that is activated when Mom is preoccupied? I was the victim of this phenomenon many times. My parents had a ball watching the resulting chaos. It's a comedic routine when it happens to another parent. I can't wait for grandchildren and my turn to watch the fun.
When our twins were two, I was on the phone counseling a friend. In those pre-cordless days, I was tethered to the kitchen wall. Jamie toddled by and asked for juice. I responded with his favorite cup. Amie asked for a pretend bottle for her dolly, and I produced that, too. They both meandered down the hall toward the bedroom while I continued my conversation.
I became aware of the lack of noise from the twins' room. Uh oh! Danger! I said goodbye as politely as possible and crept down the hall to investigate.
I slipped around the doorframe and peeked into the room. My scream was loud enough to wake the dead. I grabbed the doorway to steady myself from falling over. Four squinty eyes and two open mouths were motionless. Two miniature bodies were slathered head to toe in ooey-gooey Vaseline.
The twins suffered from chronic diaper rashes. As prevention, I purchased an economy-size jar of petroleum jelly. I'm talking about a real tub of it. This monster probably weighed 10 pounds.
While the twins held their breath and waited for orders, I surveyed the room, hoping to get a grasp of how this mess could have happened. The changing table had drawers. Cleverly, the drawers had been pulled out one by one. As they stacked atop each other, they formed a ladder. I assumed Jamie had climbed up to investigate this exciting mountain and spotted the compelling jar. He must have dropped it down to Amie, making her an accomplice.
Jamie was obviously the mastermind because Amie pointed to him and cried, "Daime do it, Daime do it!" Completely coated, over and under their clothing, with slimy goo, they squished with each step. When I reached for Amie, she slipped through my hands and hit the floor hard, still yelling, "Daime do it!"
Jamie stood motionless as terror dominated his gooey little face. He said nothing—he did nothing. Even at two he understood the value of the Fifth Amendment.
Dollops of grease were everywhere. It was gooped into their hair and oozing out of their shirts. After coating their shoes, they had stomped it into the rug. It was smeared on a doll and a teddy bear. While tears filled my eyes, a glob of slimy goo ran down the side of a push toy and made a gushy sound as it puddled on the carpet.
Think Debbie, think. They are only babies. I didn't want to lose my temper. Why would they do this? I tried to pick Jamie up but he slid down my leg. I wished I could call some business that specialized in toxic clean up and let them take care of this while I sipped tea on the front porch.
Amie rubbed her tummy and slid a greasy finger under her nose. Her blue eyes filled with more tears. My heart sank. I wanted to sit down and cry too. The wheels in my brain were stuck in neutral. While they dripped, I prayed. Was this imitation? During each diaper change I rubbed their little bellies with ointment as we giggled and laughed together. Why did they pick this method to mimic Mom? I continued to ask for wisdom while the ooey-gooey solution slid down my walls.
Another cry from Amie as she wiped her nose on my jeans snapped me out of my trance, and I jumped into action. It seemed the best solution was to corral them in the tub. After all, a little warm water should do the trick. I picked them up by the back waistbands of their pants and carried them like bales of hay. I started the water and bubble bath, threw their clothes in the trash, and let them slide into the tub. It took only seconds for the tub to become an oil slick. With so much goo, the twins kept sliding underwater. They bobbed as fiercely as buoys tossed in a tropical storm. Afraid they would drown, I had no choice but to drain the tub. I wiped it out with paper towels and filled it up again. After three attempts, the tub was still a quicksand of jellied slime.
Their hair was the worst. It seemed to erupt with more and more grease. It was as if they'd swallowed it and the only way to get it out was to squeeze it up through their hair. I called my hairdresser and explained the problem as calmly as possible. The other end went silent for a moment. I tapped my toe until I heard the entire beauty shop burst into howls of laughter. Finally, I just hung up.
I tried alcohol, lemon juice, laundry detergent, bubble bath, toothpaste, mouthwash, vinegar, every soap in the house, Ron's orange hand cleaner that removed auto grease—nothing worked. Petroleum jelly was everywhere. It was a nightmare.
For the next three weeks I had the softest kids in town. Everyone who heard the story laughed at our expense. After eighteen washings with the most potent cleaners, they still looked like extras from the movie Grease.
Several times I cried over the situation. In those first moments of total panic, I don't think I even cracked a smile. This was serious. Clothes were ruined. Rugs were damaged. Time was wasted, not to mention all that ointment and cleaner. It took several days of prayers, but finally I began to search for a lesson from God.
Sometimes I think I should write a "Mommy Bible," It would include verses like "Thou shalt not fret when thy child lags in potty training. With perseverance he shall rejoice in the morning." Doesn't that sound comforting? How about this one: "By this action shall all men know that this is your child. Therefore, love him even when he acts like you." Wow, who couldn't learn from that truth?
Even without a Mommy Bible, God can teach us through our children. While Vaseline may not seem spiritual, I learned three very important lessons.
Lesson 1: The twins were just mimicking me. When I rubbed their little bellies, I showed love. I tickled, cooed, and kissed, making it a pleasant experience. True, they got a little carried away, but perhaps I should concentrate on the fact that even at two my babies wanted to be like me. By fretting about the mess, I neglected to notice their highest form of praise. They loved what I was doing and they wanted to be just like me.
Lesson 2: What about that mess? It's easy to get involved in circumstances and worry about trivial things. We have to get a second job to afford a bigger house. We must have thousands for new clothes because we can't wear the same thing twice in one month. We can't drive a car with rust on it because it wouldn't look right. When we arrive at the pearly gates are things going to be important? Is it important to God that a nine-dollar jar of Vaseline was wasted? Will God really care about the worn furniture or the cracked dishes? Won't he be more concerned with the love that filled my messy little house? Maybe I should worry more about praying with my babies than the gooey mess in the tub.
Lesson 3: Life is full of good days and bad days. The important thing is that God is there for all the days. He's there for Vaseline, for bounced checks, for broken relationships, and especially for those truly terminal problems. He's also there for the championship win, the advancement at work, and the first time our child says "I love you." If we sincerely believe that God is all-powerful and that he is in control of this world and our lives, why would there ever be a cause to worry? Why would we ever need to give life's ooey-gooey a second thought?
I put on an old tee shirt that wouldn't be ruined by Vaseline-saturated hair and rocked my greasy little babies. We cuddled and I hummed as they dozed off to sleep. If I did write a Mommy Bible, it would have to include the following verse: "When thy babies make a mess with a monster Vaseline jar, Jesus giggles."
Debbie Jansen is The Mommy Detective. She is a speaker and author who can be found at www.themommydetective.com.