When you have kids, there’s a moment that becomes very familiar to you. It’s that moment when you go from blissfully enjoying whatever it was you’re doing to full-on high alert, caused by a loud sound. In that moment, you inhabit both states for a split second, and you almost think that if you concentrate hard enough, you can step backward into bliss. But you cannot, because the noise has happened and now you have to deal with it.
I experienced this moment last Saturday, when my son Jacob spilled our coin bucket all over the entryway. In this case, there was no mistaking what the loud noise was. The sound of hundreds (or maybe even thousands) of coins falling on laminate flooring is very distinctive. And just as the noise was clear, the next course of action was also clear. The coins needed to be removed from the floor somehow. And as much as I would have liked to lay that job at my four-year-old son’s feet, since he made the mess, the truth is that he just wasn’t up to the task.
I did my best to swallow my anger, because what was done was done. Jacob knew that spilling the coins all over the floor wasn’t exactly a stellar idea. The look of concern on his face made that all too clear. Lecturing a preschooler does not make the floor cleaner, even if it is a little bit satisfying to vent in the culprit’s direction. So I did some deep breathing and set to work. As I cleared the floor, I learned a few things.
- Coins are very hard to pick up. Given how flat they are, and given how heavy they are all put together, it’s hard to really get a good handful. Pretty soon it became clear to me that I needed a better solution than just using my hands. I reasoned that coins are magnetic, so I fetched the biggest magnet I could off my fridge. This led to my next lesson.
- Not all coins are magnetic. Based on my experience it seems that most Canadian nickels, dimes and quarters are magnetic, but most Canadian pennies are not. And most of the American change that was hiding in my change bucket was not magnetic at all. The Royal Canadian Mint may be phasing out the penny, but we still had plenty of them in our change bucket, so I had to switch my approach again. Once again, I learned something.
- Coins are very hard to sweep up. Once again their flatness and heaviness conspired against me. They don’t pile up on top of each other easily, and they like to slip underneath the lip of the dust pan as you try to sweep them up. This was a little more effective than my previous two methods, but not by much. And it was made even more difficult by my son, which led to yet another lesson.
- Four-year-old ‘helpers’ just aren’t that helpful. Little kids lose interest easily. They also lack the manual dexterity and physical strength of adults. Of course, when they make a mess, I insist that they pitch in. But when they focus on trying to decide which penny is the shiniest, picking them out of the pile you’ve managed to actually get back in the change bucket and discarding them on the floor when they decide another is shinier, you may have second thoughts about insisting they help.
I’m happy to report that eventually all the coins did get picked up. I’m also happy to report that the change bucket is now in a more secure location. This is no guarantee against future spills – but it’s something. And right now I’ll do whatever little thing I can to avoid spending another morning picking coins off the floor.