When I was growing up, my bedroom was a bit of a… (How do I say this in English?)… wreck. I don’t remember it being a wreck; I remember it being very comfortable. But then my dad showed up at the doorway to my bedroom one day, with a tape measure. He measured the width of that doorway and made some marks on a piece of paper for future references.
I asked him what he was doing.
He said, “Just getting some measurements. I’m going to build a pig trough right here in your doorway. I thought it would go with the decor.”
And then I moved away to college.
My first roommate in college was literally a friend of a friend of a friend’s cousin who needed someone to share rent with, and she was a NEAT FREAK. As in, she dusted window frames and baseboards and wiped the refrigerator out with a wet dishtowel every couple of days or so. She was the most Type A person I had ever met, and she scared the tarnation out of me. But I learned that if she and I were to live in peace together, I couldn’t interrupt her guilty pleasure of “Jeopardy” during the afternoons, and I’d better wipe up any toothpaste splatter that hit the counter.
She made MY Type A look calm. And also laid back.
We didn’t live together the following year.
The next year at college, I had another roommate. She was also the friend of a friend of a friend’s boyfriend’s fraternity friend. It was all dreadfully confusing, but I seemed to enjoy picking college roommates by word of mouth. I was all, “It doesn’t matter if I know them or not. As long as they’ve never been convicted of an on-campus murder, and they’re good about paying rent, I’m in.”
My second roommate turned out to become a lifelong friend. Whereas my first roommate scared me in all her sterile habits, my second roommate at college could mix a Bloody Mary faster than anyone could sneeze, and we would laugh our heads off together until we cried. Sadly, I never learned to like the Bloody Marys, because TOMATO JUICE KILLED ME WITH ITS NASTINESS.
But D and I, along with D’s boyfriend, T, became the very best of friends that year.
And D never, ever picked up anything.
At first, I was all, “This is great! We’re college girls! We can live in a pig sty!”
And then one day I woke up, and the mess bothered me. So I cleaned. I stacked text books and folded clothes and hung clothes on hangers. I washed dishes and found a vacuum cleaner in the garage of our condo. I mopped and dusted and cleaned the toilet. D came home and said, “Wow! It looks like we have a mother living here with us! This is so cool!”
And that, people, is when my Type A personality decided that it really did enjoy basking in the glow of a clean house.
I took this college skill to marriage with me. I cleaned all the time.
Hubs and I had the boy, and the boy was very, VERY GOOD about entertaining himself for an hour or two at a time with his toys, so I cleaned. I kept up on my housework with a newborn. I kept up on my housework with a toddler. I kept up on my housework all the time, and I tended to raise an eyebrow here and there when a friend would tell me, “Oh, my lands! I can’t get any housework done with a three-year-old living with us, and my house is a total wreck!”
Hmm-hmm. I see. So basically you’re saying that you sit on the sofa all day and eat bon-bons, because what else could explain your dirty dishes in the sink and your unvacuumed floors?
And then, people, we had Thing 2. Thing 2 is lively and energetic. Thing 2 is a mover and a shaker in ways that the boy never was. And he likes to play outside, at parks. He likes to ride his bike outside. He likes to throw rocks in creeks outside. He likes to dig in the dirt outside. The boy liked to do all of these things, too, but he didn’t mind building with Legos for two hours while Mama did some chores first, and THEN we took his bike to the park to ride.
Thing 2 has no patience for all the waiting. When he’s forced to wait, he does things like entertain himself with bags of potato chips. He can crush a bag of chips onto the floor faster than I can sneeze. He pulls things out of drawers, climbs furniture, jumps from kitchen counters, and throws things over the stair railing. He finds Sharpie markers and writes on pillowcases in my room; he finds pencils and writes on the boy’s window frame; he finds red markers and writes on walls. But if we GO… if we GET OUTSIDE AND DO SOMETHING… if we just haul some Play-Doh out… if we sit down together and review our alphabet and shapes… if we just read together… if we just go outside on the deck and look for bugs to stomp on… if we just go for a walk around the neighborhood and find rocks to throw into storm gutters… our days go so much better.
It’s just that my house suffers.
My house hasn’t looked like this since my dad took those measurements for a pig trough in front of my bedroom doorway when I was a senior in high school.
AND I’M NOT SITTING ON THE SOFA EATING BON-BONS ALL DAY!!
This is where I gain some humility and think that not every mother has a child who was as quiet and easily entertained as the boy was when he was a baby and toddler. Not every mother can continue to squeeze a couple hours’ worth of housework into her day.
EVEN WHEN SHE STAYS AT HOME ALL DAY.
This morning, I found THIS ARTICLE RIGHT HERE. (You should totally click there and read it.) This article sums up everything so nicely; it just made me nod my head over and over in agreement, as I said, “Yes!” and “Amen!”
My boys are happy. One of my boys enjoys some quiet time throughout the day, where he’s just buy himself with his Legos in his room… or by himself, with his music in his room. My other boy doesn’t enjoy quiet time at all, and that is why we are always on the go.
And it explains the fact that my house looks like a city landfill on most days.
But teaching my toddler to ride his bike is so much more important to me than mopping my floors. And talking with my teenager on the deck in the evenings about LIFE makes me happier than a clean house ever could.
(Also? This is a complete change in topic, but I just typed that last word COULD in the above paragraph as COOD. And I couldn’t understand why a bright red line showed up beneath it, indicating a spelling error.)
(I may be losing it.)
Y’all have a great weekend.