I am, I freely admit, a disastrous housekeeper. My house is in shambles, a mess, a bottomless pit of stray socks, random cups, and at least one bowl of what looks to contain the remnants of heavily peppered mushroom soup in the laundry room.
In fact, my house is such a disaster, I sincerely fear play dates. Not because I know that nicely turned out parents in their tidy vehicles will arrive to pick up their darlings and be shocked at the overflowing laundry bins, unmade beds, and a dangerously high proportion of Lego underfoot, but because I won't be able to locate their precious, but oh-so-easily misplaced progeny.
Now, don't get me wrong, we aren't depraved. We don't share our home with cockroaches, mice, or assorted vermin (that we can see), and we're certainly not candidates for Hoarders (God forbid!), but we're so deeply mired in stuff, you have to wade through the hip-deep detritus to find the couch.
I'm not proud of this. I'm really not. In fact, my beloved Grandfather, who used to get on his hands and knees every afternoon to comb out the tassels on the throw rug in his front room, is probably preparing to completely disown me (while he tidies his grave!). And I can't really blame him.
I'm not all bad, though! Sometimes I get so claustrophobic I go on a rampage filling plastic bin bags with any and all toys, clothes, shoes, bedding, and assorted small appliances within reach and hoof it off to the Sally Ann—but I'm sufficiently unmotivated to make a permanent change (I blame the kids—motivation-takers!).
So I've come up with a plan. I've decided, rather than fight the inevitable, I'm going to find and extol the virtues of living in a mess. It's my new mission, maybe even my new religion. I will convert at least three people a decade. It'll be a small congregation, but a lazy one. We'll call ourselves Our Lady of Perpetual Mess. And we'll even have hymns, like, Go Throw it Off the Mountain and Amazing Glaze (on the Bathroom Counter). Of course, our new religion will have founding principles—the backbone of the new faith, and they will be The Five Virtues:
1. Moderation: Avoid extremes of housekeeping, and forebear resenting any injury caused by tripping over your husband's shoes so much as you think they deserve.
2. Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, like a strawberry stuck to the kitchen floor for a week, or at accidents common or unavoidable from stepping and sliding on said strawberry.
3. Order: Let all your things have their own right and unique place, and when they are no longer to be found in that place, let the places they now lie be their new place.
4. Resolution: Resolve to perform the tasks you ought (like dishes and laundry), when you're not too tired or too busy blogging. Perform this resolution without fail when your in-laws are coming for the weekend.
5. Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanness in any member of the families in body, clothes, or wine glasses, but in habitation, give yourself ample leeway.
Oh this is good! I feel a great weight lifted off my shoulders (mostly because I just shrugged my coat and purse off my shoulders and onto the floor. That purse gets heavy!).
It's freeing to aim for the middle. No more battles. No more weeping. No more renting of clothes. No more shouting down the hall to get kids to pick up their shoes, backpacks, socks, cups, underwear, or ponytail holders. No more threatening life and limb when I find eleven cloth napkins and a fork smeared with peanut butter in a 12-year-old's desk drawer. And no frantically Googling divorce lawyers after discovering toenail clippings on the kitchen table...again!
And when my time is up and Our Lady descends to finally bring me to that tidy, quiet, peaceful place in the sky, I'll know I did my job. I'll know that my family is safe from pestilence and disease, because my conversion has enabled them to be exposed to every known bacteria on the planet. That, and the fact that they'll probably find enough money (and popcorn kernels and Barbie shoes and crayons and damp underwear) under the cushions on the couch to hire a housekeeper.
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Photo from Flickr CC: Beth Scupham
An insane anniversary in my life is fast approaching. A day as a mother I knew would come, someday, but not a day I ever really expected to mark. After 26 years as a parent, I’ve got birthdays, graduations, Christmases, Halloweens, Easters, and even “Moooooooom! I-think-I-got-my-period" days down pat. What's rattling me a little is my son’s wedding anniversary. Yes! Wedding anniversary!
In about a month he’ll celebrate his 4th year as a married man. Damn! A Married Man!!!! More days than not I feel like I’m not old enough to be married to a married man! So as this anniversary approaches, I've been warmly, and with some melancholy-coloured tenderness, reflecting on his wedding, a handful of years ago, in a postcard-perfect little town in Holland called Dordrecht.
He asked me to speak at the wedding. A simple toast. Nothing extraordinary, really. He gave me loads of time to prepare. He asked about 3 weeks before the event. So like the early bird I’m not, I laid in bed, night after night, and wrote script after script in my head of what I’d say, how I’d say it, how everyone would laugh and cry, how fabulous I was, and how great I’d look. Then, I wouldn’t write it. I wouldn’t commit anything to paper because it all sounded wrong. It sounded tinny and insincere. It all sounded wrong and tinny and insincere, and I’d gained 3 pounds since I bought my dress for the wedding.
So, I did what I always do. Nothing. I avoided thinking about it, and I secretly worried (about the speech, and my growing Buddha-belly–egads!).
But the day of the wedding came, as days inevitably do, I sat through the service alternately crying and laughing and clenching my butt chakra. Afterwards, as I approached my beautiful married son with a glass of champagne, a bursting heart, and a mouthful of cheesecake, I asked, “Do you still want me to say something?”
“Yes. I do. You are going to say something, aren’t you?” He sounded nervous, trepidatious, like I might let him down.
“Of course!” I say, full of conviction and terror. But what was I…? What would I…? What was I to say?
And time stopped. And for 5 seconds I stood frozen. And as I looked at him, I knew there was nothing for it but to write. So I slipped off my shoes, borrowed a pen, found a quiet spot, and on the back of the wedding program around a photo of this new born couple, I wrote my speech.
What's a mother to say on her son’s wedding day? I’ve thought and struggled to find the words, and as many times as I’ve put pen to paper, I’ve tossed it aside—unsatisfied and unsure. So I’ve decided to do two things: share the wisdom of another and speak from my heart.
When Jonah told us he was marrying Richelle, we were overwhelmed. We were surprised—what should we think? What should we do? What should we say? We didn’t know.
Then we met her—and as a family, we fell madly in love. But it was our 7-year-old, Bronwyn, that said it best when she said to me, “Mom, you know what I think? I think Jonah’s too young to get married, but he sure picked a beautiful, pretty girl to marry.” And Bronwyn was right, Jonah picked the most beautiful, pretty girl—inside and out—to marry.
But it’s a strange thing seeing your child in love. A strange thing knowing the scraped knees I bandaged when he fell off his bike, the sweet green eyes I dried when he was hurt or overlooked, and the small, cute bum I wiped when he……well…...when he……are another woman’s to care for.
So I stand here feeling strange, proud, emotional, and a little lost—but happy. Happy to know that there is such a woman. Such a Richelle. That she loves my boy, and will love him as long, and longer, than I will.
I love you Jonah—with my heart and soul. And Richelle—you’re part of us now. Our big, mad, crazy crowd, and we love you too.
So, please. Raise a glass. To Jonah and Richelle.
In the end, I think I did okay. It probably helped that most of the audience was Dutch and didn’t understand half of it. But I learned something about love and motherhood on that day, in that moment, it doesn’t really matter what you say, just that you say it—whether you look like a sausage in your too-tight dress or not.
Back to school! Back to school! Back to school! You can hear it, can’t you? The battle cry of all summer-hardened parental warriors? We’ve spent the last eight weeks fighting the good fight—keeping the lawn mowed with everyone’s digits (hands and feet) intact and attached, keeping just enough semi-clean towels available to mop up the ever present hose-wet-kid-puddles forming on the newly refinished hardwood, keeping enough lose change and small bills to bribe the ice cream man to stay off our street, keeping our cool when we hear for the 928th time the phrase, “I’m bored” (though I have to admit, I seemed to flag at this parenting requirement near the end of July—I’m not known for my staying power!), and keeping the preschool ankle-biters and pungent preteens fed with enough watermelon, peanut butter, and popsicles to keep them from eating each other.
Time for celebration and jubilation, right? Time for all of the stay-at-home, work-from-home, work-out-of-home, overwhelmed, over-kidded, over-done parents to take a well-earned vacation day—a vacation day that arbitrarily excludes anyone too young to have pubic hair and not old enough to imbibe the tasty libations thus to be served—and crack a bottle of bubbly during the middle of the day.
It’s been a hard fought, hard won day of rest and relaxation.
Rest and relaxation! Oh, what a kidder I am. I slay myself.
I always approach the end of summer with the expectation that once the nose-miners are back in school, I’ll be able to finally, finally relax. I’ll have a clean, quiet house for at least six straight hours—no whining, bickering, angsty, needy kids leaving a trail of damp socks and potato chip shards across the house. Just me and my back-to-school bliss.
How after 20 years of first days of school I’m still kidding myself and expecting that the start of school means the release of the Mom evades me. The thing that catches me by surprise every year is that I miss them. I miss my kids. I miss all the irritating, frustrating, nose-picking, sibling-scrapping, knee-scraping misery. I miss it because, honestly, it’s easier and far, far preferable to the agonizing, soul-twisting, back-to-school angst.
Maybe it’s just me. Some kids seem rather happy to go back to school. Some kids look forward to it. Not mine. My kids torture themselves, and me. Let me tell you what I mean.
My oldest daughter graduated from university a few years ago (with Distinction thankyouverymuch! I like to think Mama don’t raise no fools, but really I deserve zero credit—she worked like a Trojan. The warrior, not the condom, you dirty minded lot!). Two weeks preceding everyone else going back to school should be the time she reflects on her success, and not so secretly smirks behind her hand that she’s done, finished, broken the tape at the end of the race, but no, she’s a wreck. She wants to be heading back to the classroom—she’s one of a handful of people in the Universe who’s jealous she’s not going back to school. Her coping mechanism is to droop around dropping comments like, “Luuuu-cky!” or “I wish I was getting a new back pack.” The passive sarcasm literally pools on every horizontal surface.
Then there’s the full three weeks it takes to move our middle daughter back to university after a summer of the car spontaneously disappearing from the garage remarkably at the same time every potato chip and pretzel, and the last bottle of hazelnut syrup (I have no idea why, I just don't ask) has disappeared from the house. This should be an exciting time for her and us, but the frustratingly slow trickle of clothes out of the closet and the occasional box leaving the spare room is pure agony. When we finally get her moved in and settled, she has an overwhelming attack of doubt: “Am I in the right program? Am I any good at this? I think I hate all my classes! My roommate leaves the toilet seat up every time, and she’s a girl! What’s she doing in there?!”
But does the excitement stop there? Sadly, no. There also dwells in a dark corner of the basement the world’s only truly tortured 12-year-old existentialist. His worries go far beyond whether to invest in giants or archers to protect his village in Clash of Clans, or whether his sister called shotgun more times last week than he did. His dire preteen angst reaches epic proportions pre-September—will he have friends in his class, or if we leave a night light on in the hallway will the energy expenditure heat the earth thus melting the polar ice caps killing all the polar bears, or will he get the options he wants, or when will he ever fully understand exactly how souls animate our bodies?
And who do they all come to when they need answers, support, and packed lunch? Me. ME?! It’s 4 pm and I still haven’t combed my hair! Back to school angst forsooth!
So I dread September. I dread the heart-twisting exhaustion of dragging a barge filled with my progeny’s back-to-school fears, angst, and insecurities down the lonely bumpy road of motherhood.
Give me back the simple summer days of my hysterical pre-pubescent daughter after her brother pantsed her in the front yard, or the pop and popcorn-fuelled full 12-hour Star Wars marathon happening in my family room filled with enough 20-year-old limbs to populate a mannequin factory, or the perpetually sticky, perpetually syrupy nature of the kitchen table after a Captain-Crunch-salt-and-vinegar-chip-Monopoly match (that resulted in near fatal amounts of blood loss), or the constant noise, the constant chaos, the constant kids.
Yup. Compared with the anxiety filled nights and barely filled lunch kits, I'll take the simple days of summer every time.
If you liked this, check out: "Why You Need To Throw Your Uterus A Retirement Party" and "Back-To-School: 6 Great School-Themed Movies."