I have a confession to make. A few days ago, I plopped the kids in front of the TV and tuned it to one of their favorite stations. The older two watched the screen for a total of two hours, and when the baby awoke from her nap, I placed her in the bouncer near the kids. She jabbered on for a while, and if she could talk, I’m pretty sure she would have yelled: “Get me out of here!”
And let me be honest … for the moment, I could have cared less that the kids were staring at a screen for 120 minutes. I was busy mopping, unloading the dishwasher, folding sheets and cleaning the infinite amount of messes that trail little ones wherever they go.
Now, I realize that the fact that I was cleaning while the kids were engaged with a screen may not seem worthy of a confession, but my attitude about it all is. As I bent over the mop, plunging it into the water and then pulling it to and fro across the tile floor, I sensed a slight begrudging attitude toward their age.
Life with a five-year-old boy, a two-year-old girl and a baby is busy, demanding, messy. The little feet that fit themselves into tractor rain boots and pink sparkled canvas shoes are the same feet that track in grass and dirt while leaving a trail of footprints across the floor. The hands that reach up and nest their fingers in mine are the same hands that litter Legos across the living room, drop cereal on the rug and splash water helter-skelter across the countertop. And sometimes (just sometimes) I catch myself wishing they were a bit older, their messes a bit more tidy.
That day I let them sit in front of the TV was without a doubt one of those days. By nature, I’m a visual person. As a result, I thrive on creating and maintaining a soothing, orderly space that fosters a sense of calm. Too much clutter, and I feel a bit stifled, uneasy, unable to rest. I need a space for my mind to land, and messy environments don’t allow that because they cause me to look around and see a never-ending amount of work that still has to be completed. My soul has a hard time breathing when Lincoln Logs, errant puzzle pieces, teacup sets, milk spills and poop-stained onesies all mock me.
But on the other hand, I also see that my kids are growing too quickly. Number 1 will be going to kindergarten in the fall, and I’m still struggling to figure out how we arrived at that milestone so quickly. Number 2—who is enamored by all things glitter, princess, pink or purple—is about to turn three years old, and I swear just yesterday she was the baby. And as for six-month-old Number 3, didn’t we JUST find out we were expecting her?
I don’t want to begrudge the ages of my little ones and the endless messes that come with each of them. Instead, I want to savor this season and delight in the wonder of their discoveries and share in the joy of their play. It’s one of the reasons I started this blog: so that I would be encouraged to really LOOK for the beauty in the mundane, to SEE the art in the smudged fingerprints on glass. But let’s be honest … It’s really hard sometimes!
When my kids look back on their childhood, I don’t want them to recall me with a constant vacuum cleaner in one hand and a spray bottle in the other. But sometimes I fear that I have a tendency to choose my children’s messes over my children.
So here I am, admitting this (somewhat silly, somewhat humbling) struggle to you, and I’m praying for a bit of an attitude change and for a way to strike a balance. I’m praying that my eyes will choose to land on the creativity and the wonder of their play, rather than the messy array of their playthings. And I’m seeking to find a real housekeeping solution that helps me to balance it all.
What about you? Can any of you relate to this struggle? How have you been able to successfully make the two coexist?