From Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler's Soul

The House That Mommy Built

Our children give us the opportunity to become the parent we always wished we’d had.

Louise Hart

Our cramped apartment often triggered tempers, and sometimes even two-year-old Mike knew he needed a time-out. But, where? There was no place to go, no place for him to be quiet and safe by himself.

After one particularly difficult session of his strong will pitted against mine, I decided we needed to go for a walk to soothe our jangled nerves. His and mine.

I bundled him and put a thin coating of Vaseline over his rosy cheeks to protect him from the single-digit temperature. And then I stuffed him into the carrier on my back, snug against the cold. With a handful of letters for the post office and some wrapped homemade cookies, we were off.

We took the long way through the neighborhood so we could stop at the pet store. “Whatcha wanna see today, Mike?” The proprietor greeted us. “Let’s see. How about . . .” He held a wiggling lizard out for Mike to meet. “Sorta looks like a miniature dinosaur, don’t he?”

I offered the shopkeeper cookies as I did almost every time we visited.

“You don’t have to do that—just keep bringin’ the little fella by.”

After lingering farewells to all of Mike’s pet-shop favorites, we headed to the post office. In the alley I saw something that gave me an idea, and we ducked into the appliance store next door. The stock boy didn’t know what to make of my request but gamely gave me permission to take anything I wanted.

Moments later we were on our way home, with Mike riding on my back, craning his neck to watch the refrigerator box bumping behind us—plowing over shrubs, small dogs and anyone else who happened to be in the way.

Mike’s squeals of delight warned passersby as he pointed and called out, “Mommy-box! Mommy-box!”

Every block or so, I adjusted my numb grip on the tattered flap. I lost my balance several times, but we arrived home, the bedraggled box—and us—still in one piece. Mike now slumped deep in the backpack, fast asleep.

After tucking him into his bed, I set to work. Time flew as I sliced, squiggled designs and fashioned furniture out of small boxes and an old, overturned laundry basket. Eventually I heard a giggle behind me. I moved aside, and the sight that greeted Mike lit up his little face like a Christmas tree.

“House!” He jumped up and down, then ran through the door I’d cut in the box and immediately crawled inside. He beamed, “Me house!”

The refrigerator box-turned-clubhouse became his favorite haunt. When he was tired or grumpy, I suggested he take a “time-out” in his house. Many times I found him asleep surrounded by trucks and dolls. Eventually, he dragged his books in there, too. I heard him read to imaginary friends, tapping the pictures and telling the story his way: “Mommy took me on a walk and we found my box. . . .”

Maryjo Faith Morgan

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