In the olden days — like, the very olden days, but not as old as the days when Diff’rent Strokes was everyone’s favorite sitcom — I had a clean house.
It’s because I kind of enjoyed cleaning, and the smell of Clorox made me as happy as sunshine and yellow daffodils. I powered through every week and vacuumed everything. I scrubbed floors and scrubbed windows and scrubbed bathroom sinks and scrubbed the fronts of my kitchen cabinets. I cleaned out my refrigerator and dusted my living room furniture and made beds and organized my bookcase alphabetically, because I’m a little bit nerdy. I mowed the yard and religiously weeded the flower beds. I moved my hose and sprinkler every thirty minutes, because we didn’t have fancy underground sprinklers then, and I would set a timer so I wouldn’t forget. I took out the garbage and I polished my wood coffee table with furniture wax and my kitchen cupboards looked like showcases for all of our plates and coffee mugs.
And then we had the boy.
And really? Well, things didn’t change much, because the boy was easy. He was laid-back and content. He’d happily hammer real nails into real wood with a real hammer on the back patio while I gave the house a once-over every morning. And then we’d play. We’d go to the park and to playgroups. We played at friends’ houses. I took him to swimming lessons and T-ball for toddlers and the creek to look for bugs. We went to the library for books, and we read all of those books out loud together. And then there would be a big nap in the afternoon for the boy, and I would read my own book, and perhaps fold a load of laundry, because there was nothing left to clean in my house.
I would even iron the boy’s Ralph Lauren shirts, because I abhor wrinkles and because I had the time. I liked my little man looking neat and pressed and fashionable.
Better Homes and Gardens could have walked in on any day of the week and featured us in a full-color, four-glossy-pages of magazine layout.
And then Thing 2 arrived. And… oh! My heart doesn’t feel like it can possibly stretch to hold any more love, but I wake up each morning even more in love with our two boys. I wouldn’t trade them for an unlimited gift card at Starbucks, and that’s actually saying something.
(Because Starbucks and I have a problem. It’s called I GIVE THEM TOO MANY OF OUR DOLLARS EVERY WEEK, which is also called WE HOPE THE BOYS GET GOOD SCHOLARSHIPS, BECAUSE THEIR COLLEGE FUNDS WENT DOWN IN WHITE PAPER CUPS ADORNED WITH GREEN MERMAIDS.)
Thing 2 is not content to sit and hammer real nails into real wood with a real hammer. We don’t give Thing 2 a real hammer, because it would be a weapon in his hands. We’d suffer broken windows and chipped hardwood floors and dead cats.
Thing 2 moves. He runs, he jumps, he climbs. He spins, he hops, he walks backwards. He rolls. He shakes. He dances. He also unloads every kitchen drawer… every kitchen cupboard… every dresser drawer… both of his toyboxes… all of my bookcases… and my enormous baskets full of Scentsy wax. He pulls things out of closets… he eats cat food… he runs from one end of the house to the other, over and over and OVER… he licks my windows… he puts toys in the toilets… he pulls the cats’ tails… he unpacks his diaper bag…
…and he gives the very best toddler hugs and kisses around.
He melts my heart.
He melts my heart every bit as much as his older brother does.
But he destroys my house. And somewhere along the line, I seem to have just flat-out given up on cleaning the house any more. After picking up the Tupperware out of my kitchen drawers four hundred times, I just give up. I’m never more aware of this sad fact until someone stops by for a surprise visit, and I have to make excuses for why my house looks like this:
And like this:
(And of course y’all know that I didn’t take those pictures myself; I stole them off of Google, and I don’t know who took them.)
(But I totally draw the line at cats. We have two. It’s almost two too many. I could never hoard cats.)
But do y’all know what I’m learning?
I’m learning that Pinterest makes me unhappy, because I am so busy chasing a toddler right now, I don’t have time to clean and make my kitchen glow like it’s been sprinkled with the dust of thirty-seven little fairy wings.
And we can’t have jugs of Clorox around any longer, because Thing 2 just pulls them on out of the cabinets and works on twisting their lids off. (This doesn’t cause me near the heart palpitations that it would have caused had the boy done it at the tender age of one, because the boy would have RUINED HIS GYMBOREE AND HIS RALPH LAUREN WITH ALL THE CLOROX SPOTS! Thing 2 doesn’t get his shirts ironed. Ever. And I don’t buy Ralph Lauren shirts for him, because ain’t nobody got time for that. He spends a lot of time running around our house in just his diaper.)
(The poor second child.)
(If it weren’t for hand-me-downs from Lisa’s one boy and Carrie’s two boys and Katie’s three boys, Thing 2 would be naked.)
This morning, instead of folding a load of laundry like I should have been doing… or emptying the dishwasher… or wiping toothpaste splatters off of the bathroom sinks… I simply sat down at my desk with a cup of coffee-flavored milk, and, somehow, I found a new blog. I was immediately hooked, because I found something that the writer had posted, and I nearly cried, because it’s what I’ve been looking for.
I play with Thing 2, people. It’s because he NEEDS it. And I hang out with the boy after school. Because he needs it. My boys are happy… they’re well-adjusted… they love Jesus. Thing 2 is an accomplished slider, because his mama takes him to the park. A lot. The boy is an accomplished golfer, because his mama drives him to the golf course almost every day, so that he can smack a little white ball around and try to rob me of $8 for a cheeseburger and fries from the clubhouse, because he is ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS hungry. And while we’re busy making memories like that, my coffee table is busy collecting dust, and sometimes Hubs has to say, “I am wearing a pair of boxers this morning that I was purposely saving for the Apocalypse. I do not like them at all, but they’re the only pair that’s clean.”
It’s life. I’m learning that.
And here! Y’all have to read this, because it made me so very happy this morning. I didn’t write it. The author’s name is Lisa-Jo, and she’s a complete stranger to me, but I think I’d like to have a cup of chai tea with her. I love her blog, even though I’ve only known about it for one day now.
* * * * *
For the days we are running on empty. For the days we just don’t think we have it in us to read one more story, play one more game of Uno, wash one more round of sheets. For the days when we think everyone else has it altogether. For the days we’re sure anyone else would do this job better.
For those days. You know the ones.
Repeat after me:
1. I shall not judge my house, my kid’s summer activities or my crafting skills by Pinterest’s standards.
2. I shall not measure what I’ve accomplished today by the loads of unfolded laundry, but by the assurance of deep love I’ve tickled into my kids.
3. I shall say “yes” to blanket forts and see past the chaos to the memories we’re building.
4. I shall surprise my kids with trips to get ice cream when they’re already in their pajamas.
5. I shall not compare myself to other mothers, but find my identity in the God who trusted me with these kids in the first place.
6. I shall remember that a messy house at peace is better than an immaculate house tied up in knots.
7. I shall play music loudly and teach my kids the joy of wildly uncoordinated dance.
8. I shall remind myself that Perfect is simply a street sign at the intersection of Impossible and Frustration in Never Never Land.
9. I shall embrace the fact that in becoming a mom, I traded perfect for a house full of real.
10. I shall promise to love this body that bore these children — out loud, especially in front of my daughter.
11. I shall give my other mother friends the gift of guilt-free friendship.
12. I shall do my best to admit to my people my “unfine” moments.
13. I shall say “sorry” when sorry is necessary.
14. I pray to God that I shall never be too proud, angry or stubborn to ask for my children’s forgiveness.
15. I shall make space in my grown-up world for goofball moments with my kids.
16. I shall love their father and make sure they know I love him.
17. I shall model kind words — to kids and to grown-ups alike.
18. I shall not be intimidated by the inside of my minivan — this season of chip bags, goldfish crackers and discarded socks too shall pass.
19. I shall always make time to encourage new moms.
20. I shall not resent that last call for kisses and cups of water, but remember instead that when I blink, they’ll all be in college.
* * * * *
Isn’t that a wonderful list?
Y’all have a happy Tuesday evening. I’m going to go celebrate the last calls for drinks, and simply smile while the boy takes forty-eleven hours to floss beneath his braces, in an effort to stay up longer.