Ever since Matisse couldn’t control her motor skills, she has been pulling boxes of baby wipes apart. These boxes of elation can be found in several rooms of the house, in our handbags and those of visitors too. They just manifest everywhere that kids do…
At first, it was just a social habit; a box here, a box there. Matisse loves pulling them out - one by one until the box stops giving the goods, and she is floating in a cloud of fluffy, white, wet ones. Then she likes to take one and munch on that bad boy like she has never been fed in her life. However, she doesn't always hillbilly chew them straight away. Sometimes she wipes down her filthy legs that have been rubbing around the construction site of our back yard, or decides to clean down the coat of one of her most ‘well loved’ teddies that are breeding a range of previously eradicated diseases. And only then can she tantalise her taste buds with those eye watering flavours.
I didn’t think too much of her habit, and even took advantage of it as a stall tactic on one occasion. I was trying to keep her awake in the car until we got to the house, I passed her a full box of wipes and let her tear it apart to her heart’s content. It was the best $3 bucks I have ever spent.
But then, I noticed that Matisse seemed to be taking her wipes more seriously.
First thing in the morning, she was barely on the nappy table when she started overextending, dangerously, risking her life to get her hands on a wipe.
There was that Friday night when I walked into her room and found her giggling hysterically, doing snow angels amidst a cloud of wet tissue.
She was inventing all sorts of fake reasons to use wipes. Bad excuses. Like her doll has spilt its cereal and needs to be cleaned off, or her teddy is all muddy. I play along because I love imagination.
But inside, I wondered if this was just a decoy.
A sense of worry tugged at my sleeve, but I brushed it away. This was just normal toddler behaviour right?
Soon I started finding empty wipes containers in my bag or tucked behind furniture. But no trace of the contents. Surely not?! She couldn't be... was she concealing her habits?
One, day, the silence became deafening. I went looking and found her crouched down in a corner pulling out the wipes, all frenzied and breathing deeply, her eyes were glazed over. She wasn’t even savouring each one, she was just yanking them out in chunks, and not even making a fluffy mountain out of them. They were just thrown there dankly, lovelessly; on the ground in a wasted, sloppy pile.
“Matisse! Matisse!!”I rushed over and jolted her from her crazed state. The worry I had been pushing down surged to the surface. This was no longer just a bit of fun… this was… addiction.
I hit the streets of Karama and just walked; searching for a solution. I looked into my soul, but I also looked where I was going because I didn't want to get mugged. Dusk turned to night and I didn't have any weapons so I sprinted home as fast as a mother who has recently has two children could. I kept my mouth open wide so that if a mugger tried to grab me from behind I could chomp down on their hands. Notice I used the words 'their hands?' You can't just presume the muggers are men in Karama, there are heaps of psycho bitches too.
That night, I tried out my plan.
We were in the throes of getting into bed when the familiar story emerged; her teddy needed to wipe its hands. I didn't want to create hostility by prohibiting wipes, plus if she was coming down, it might have been dangerous to make her go cold turkey. So, I told her, “just one, Matisse, just one.” She nodded and gracefully took one from the box. She brushed it past her nose, closed her nose and inhaled that soapy aroma. She savoured her fleeting moment with the wipe and resisted the urge to indulge. I was so proud of her.
It hasn't been an easy road to sobriety. These days, as I pass by a room, I often hear a little voice saying “Just one.” I look in to see her hovering over the box, talking through the mental anguish of having to restrain her impulses. I walk over and rub her shoulders. She can do this. “I’m here for you beautiful,” I remind her. She looks up at me with her deep eyes… “just one, and NO more, NO more…” she shakes her head, and gently plucks one from the box. She lovingly gazes into its non existent eyes, then starts chewing that piece of wet tissue like there is no tomorrrow.