Toddlers and White Carpet
by Daris Howard
I

worked for two years on our new addition: a 500-square-foot sunken living room with a foyer and a half bath.

After two years of hard work, smashed fingers, lots of cuts and scrapes, and a nasty fall, I was finally ready for the carpet. The color was up to my wife, since I’m still trying to understand why pink and red don’t go together. When I get my two youngest daughters dressed for church, my wife usually has to redress them for proper color coordination.

My wife had this wonderful dream of a living room where everything was always perfect when company dropped by. Forgetting that we have children, she chose a nice, off-white carpet. When I questioned her color choice, she said, “It will be all right. We won’t allow the children to take food into that room.”

I started to tell her I had also heard a good joke, but I held my tongue, and the carpet installer came a few days later. I have to admit the carpet was beautiful; it made the room look elegant. If only we could have afforded furniture!

Our children were happy in this new room with its great expanse. They would endlessly roll and play on the carpet. Then, one day when I came home from work, 2-year-old Elliana and 3-year-old Heather met me at the door. One held a blue marker; the other, a red one.

“Daddy! Daddy!” Heather said excitedly. “Come see the picture we made!”

They slipped their hands into mine, and we walked into the house. As I stepped into the foyer, Heather pointed at the new room and said, “Didn’t we do good?”

The new white carpet now had the biggest blue-and-red smiley face I had ever seen …or at least what was supposed to be a smiley face. The drawing stretched about 10 feet in diameter, reaching across most of the room.

I know I should have looked at my two smiling angels and said, “What a nice smiley you have drawn! My, you definitely have art careers ahead of you!” Instead, what came out was more like a strangled scream.

My wife quickly appeared to see what caused my consternation, and she gasped. She looked like she was about to cry.

After conspicuously confiscating the offending markers and making sure all others were out of reach, I got some carpet cleaner and some old towels and started scrubbing. I grumbled audibly as I worked for four or five hours that evening, even skipping dinner. My wife suggested renting a steam cleaner.

“Why would I need to do that?” I grumbled. “I’m already a steamed cleaner!”

At bedtime, Heather and Elliana approached me cautiously, a book in hand. Our nightly routine was for me to read them a story, coach them on brushing their teeth, help them say their prayers, and tuck them into bed. But this night, as I was finishing up the carpet cleaning, I gruffly told them they would have to skip a story.

Seeing how upset I was, they did not argue. By the time their teeth were brushed, the carpet showed only the faintest outline of a smiley face.

As Heather prayed, she said, “. . . and help Daddy not be mad and still love us.”

Suddenly I felt like a heel, and the colored carpet paled in significance with what really mattered.

“Sweetheart,” I said to Heather, “your daddy will always love you.”

“No matter what?” she said as tears glistened her eyes.

“No matter what,” I answered.

As my two little girls sniffled softly, I pulled them onto my lap. I figured they needed a hug. I know I did.