Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
For Your Journal: Reader Response


We're pleased to feature this reader's response to one of our For Your Journal writing prompts.

Emily Yochim shares these thoughts about a mess her child made:

Journal Entry: Describe a mess your child made. What was really at the bottom of the pile or glued to the chair? Did you see determination? Cooperation? Collaboration? Creativity?


We spent last summer moving dirt, and lots of it. For months, dump trucks rumbled into our driveway daily and deposited massive piles of dirt throughout the yard. Three-year-old Elliot unfailingly heard the trucks' roar at 7 in the morning, and he spent morning after morning standing on our back porch in his pajamas watching "the workers" and the trucks. He watched intently but cautiously, standing at the edge of the porch - never venturing off of it - and noticing the small details about the trucks. "Why does that truck have different wheels than the others, mama?" he would ask, baffling me.

The trucks are my dad's - he owns a construction company - and some of "the workers" have known me since I was Elliot's age. This landscaping project was a family affair, and on weekends throughout the summer, my brothers, my parents, and several of my dad's "guys" would descend onto our property to move dirt and rebuild our backyard. The weekends were chaotic, stressful, and productive. I hustled all day, keeping track of Elliot and his 6-month-old brother, supplying doughnuts and coffee in the morning, sandwich for lunch at noon, coffee in the afternoon, and grilled steak and beer at night. I kept the water jug full and soothed the baby to sleep amid the grinding, crashing noises of excavation. Elliot marveled and relished. Sometimes he was invited onto the construction equipment, riding on his uncle or papa's laps, pushing the levers and buttons, and listening to the constant beeps and grinds. Mostly, though, he watched, as always, from the back porch. Staring, thinking, noticing.

One weekend, for a short time, Elliot disappeared in the house. I bustled about the kitchen, and my husband walked around the property taking pictures of the progress. Elliot was quiet for that length of time that every mother knows - that length of time that makes us notice. I stopped cutting fruit and headed around the corner to look for him. There, sitting at the top of the white-carpeted stairs in my brand new house, was Elliot, doing some landscaping. Propped next to him was an empty Nestle Quik container, which, just that morning, had been brand new - filled to the top. Dry, fine-grained chocolate milk powder covered three white steps, and it had been bulldozed into small hills and winding tracks. I stopped in my tracks, inhaling a sharp breath. "Look at my construction site!" he declared. I sighed, letting go, and then swelled up with pride, drinking in his creativity and sense of a job well done.

Emily can be reached at eyochim(at)allegheny(dot)com.

Karna ConverseĀ is a freelance writer who’s written everything from technical documentation and price proposals to newsletter articles, devotionals, personal profiles and essays. Her essays have been published in a variety of regional and national publications, including The Christian Science Monitor, Notre Dame Magazine, the Cup of Comfort and Chicken Soup anthologies, Our Iowa, and on Iowa Public Radio. She and her husband are parents to three young adults. Karna is a former blog editor, senior editor, managing editor, and editor-in-chief of Literary Mama.

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That's very nice.
Thank you for that story--after a long day taking care of my four little ones that was just the fresh perspective I needed!
Hysterical! Can totally relate to a this "Gasp! and take a deep breath" moment! What were you thinking? White carpets? I had them too once upon a time... sigh. Thanks for sharing!
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