The Spills


Maddo’s voice was quiet, so I knew something was up with my four-year-old daughter. Normally, this kid has one volume level and it’s about equal to that of The Who back when Pete Townshend & Co. were at their ear-splitting rockingest 1970s peak. When she turns it down to anything below 11, I know something out of the ordinary is going on.

My wife, The Thoroughly Awesome Ms. Crums, and I had been talking to our other daughter, two-year-old Little Sis, in a vain attempt to get her to eat something other than  her usual entree of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Things seemed to move in slow motion as I turned to my left. My wife’s voice hit my ears before my eyes saw the puddle of milk that was quickly turning into a lake on our dinner table:


There it was, a spill rolling across the $8 table cloth we got at Target and down onto the floor. On the way, the milk managed to inundate the upholstery on the chair that had once belonged to my wife’s grandmother. Maddo looked at me, turned her hands up and gave that excuse that every parent has heard a minimum of a million times when their kid has done something wrong:

“It was an ACCIDENT!”

Six paper towels, a good amount of dabbing at the pool on grandma’s chair and a few sprays of some wood-floor cleaner later, and we were back at dinner, trying our best to get through the meal before another disaster occurred. Amazingly, the only other drama came when Little Sis got up from her chair, declared she was “sleepy”, and then jumped up and dove into the sofa.

Spills are a natural part of life with little kids. They are also a natural element of frustration for parents. I’m pretty sure that more than a few American kids have thought that for a few yeas their name was “Goddammit!” because mom and dad shouted that every time little NoahLiam or IsabellOliviAva squeezed their juice box a little too hard and sprayed their Tree Top apple juice all over the living room carpet.

We bought a sleeper sofa about two years ago. Its original color was a light tan. Now? The best way I would describe it would be, well, “stain ring” isn’t really a color, but it is a shape that is in various sizes all over the seating area. Since we have had kids, our sofa has been the target for spills of water, milk, juice, cereal, pizza, macaroni and cheese and, of course, vomit. [Technically, vomit wasn’t spilled, it was vomited, but still…] Whatever Maddo and Little Sis have been able to get their hands on has ended up on the sofa. And then that has led me to use up all the cleaning service calls covered under our warranty. Now, it’s all up to me, and a wet towel, to try to soak up that latest circle of stain left by the morning’s orange juice.

My wife blames me for this, and she is probably right. When I was a kid, I always found a way to knock over a glass of milk as I was reaching for the gravy, and vice versa. My mom, in a voice still stricken with a Southern accent despite decades of living near Seattle would say, “Well, whatever he doesn’t break he shits on!” I didn’t really do that last part, but I do remember one time launching a glass of milk across the dinner table, only to get it refilled and then do the exact same thing, in the exact same spot, not more than five minutes later. I am nothing if not a student of repetition, I guess.

I don’t know if there is anything genetic about passing on one’s inability to keep a cup full of beer in their hand without it jumping out and exploding all over the stonewashed jeans of a group of sorority girls [This happened on more than one occasion in college], or to prevent 12 ounces of coffee from flooding all over his desk when he all he did was reach for his computer mouse.

I finally gave in and acceded to my wife’s insistence that we just drape at least the seating cushions of the sofa with a blanket for protection from future all-thumbs-related spillings. Even with this semi-too-late prophylactic measure, at the rate Maddo and Lily are spilling these days, we’ll be keeping the 36-roll, Costco-sized packages of paper towels around in case of emergencies yet to come.

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