I Give Up

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli

In this week's post, Erika asks her readers, "What you can give up today?"

So I decided to try and get a handle on the family room on Saturday and part of that meant emptying the two baskets under the coffee table in order to remove all the things that had landed there that don’t belong. I asked the kids to help, and within five minutes they had carried their newly discovered “treasures” (a plastic bouquet of balloons, a bottle of bubbles, some jewelry…) into the living room to create a “store,” adding grocery bags from the kitchen. Once the family room was ordered and even (gasp!) freshly vacuumed, I walked into the living room to join them, and found that the entire room was in upheaval. So I asked them to help me put some toys away. The first thing we did was move two benches so I could vacuum a trail of leaves that Dylan had tromped into the house earlier in the day, and immediately the kids realized that the benches would be perfect desks. So they set up “offices” across from each other, and ran into the family room to get the accessories that would best support their work. I sort-of-organized the rest of the living room while doing my best not to disrupt their very serious business and then headed upstairs to fold some laundry. The kids eventually got bored playing office and meandered upstairs to see what I was doing… and immediately discovered the two laundry baskets that I had already emptied would make perfect dog cages (and dumped the third basket I was working on to use as another prop). So they ran downstairs to get the accessories they needed from the family room, living room, and kitchen and brought them into the bedroom to set up their laundry-basket, dog homes (complete with a full jug of water that Dylan had managed to fill by himself and precariously climb the stairs with because, you know, dogs need water). Later, it occurred to them that the laundry room, which I had earlier rid of its mountain of laundry baskets, would be a perfect secret hideout, so they ran upstairs and downstairs and to the kitchen and to the living room and to the family room to get the accessories they needed...

… and I just give up already.

It’s like the video of the mom putting her baby’s clothes away on one side of the drawer while the baby is delightfully pulling the clothes out of the drawer on the other side. All my cleaning and organizing efforts do is give my kids ideas on new things to build and create and play (aka, messes to make).

So I give up. I give up on the notion that I will ever have the kind of house where you walk in and say “Wow!” for the reasons of admiration about its orderliness. You most certainly might say “Wow!” but you’re more likely to be wowing the sheer chaos.

And I also understand that this giving up, well, it’s a choice. I could choose to stop the kids from making the store and the office and the dog cage and the secret hideout. I could. But I don’t want to. Because I love their creativity, and I love that they are being creative together. I love listening to their dialogue when they enter these various worlds of make believe. I love that they see our house as a place to inhabit, not a place where they are constantly being yelled at to clean up or keep quiet or “stay in their place.”

And I need to keep reminding myself of this, because in the moment it’s very hard to celebrate this giving up, rather than curse it. Because when I walk in a room that I just finished cleaning to find that they’ve taken advantage of all the newly cleared space to build a rocket ship out of every pillow in the house, well the first voice that shows up in my head usually sounds something like this:  @#$%!!!  &*#@#@!!!  !!!  !!! ….  It’s easier to throw up my hands in a “forget this!” kind of way than a “Hey, how ‘bout this!” kind of way.

So I will keep reminding myself that I am not giving up because I am done… I am giving up so that they can begin.

What can you give up today?  


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Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.