A Perfect World of Red Glitter & Chaos
I would generalize myself as “fairly put together.” I have plenty of leeway to get things done, so I’m not looking for a medal or anything. But even though I try to temper my need for things to be just so and acknowledge the realities of the day-to-day life with children, it took only one short visit to a child-free household to trigger self-judgement and loathing to the forefront of my mind. Ga!
This February vacation our family took an overnight trip to the mountains.
After a day of skiing, we stayed with friends—a lovely couple, with no children.
It took me all of three seconds to become self-conscious:
Everything had a place – and everything was in its place.
The house was still – we were not.
Their conversations were calm and soft spoken – ours. were. not.
The inside of the refrigerator was a beacon of hope. A clean, crisp mecca where unwilted food stood with honor awaiting its destiny of becoming a healthy, well-balanced hot meal to be consumed with dignity and articulate conversation. No ketchup. No complaining.
That evening I felt fortunate that our kids were (non-medically) sedated due to exhaustion from a long day of exercising in the sun. (Traveling with preteens can be unpredictable at best– featuring sudden appearances of the unruly twin of Satan.) After a turbulent early morning start, the odds were in our favor. We had an unusually pleasant dining experience with no major incident, and a quiet night back at their home watching reruns of The Office. Everyone was happy! WINNING!
As we all snuggled on the unstained sofa at just 8:30 pm, I silently considered how our house would have looked and sounded on a typical weekday evening.
On the way home my mind was consumed with glorious visions of ALL THINGS CLEAN!
Must. Sanitize. Fridge– but wait! I should detail my car first.
Next up, get rid of ‘everything’ we own… (should I include the kids in that deal?!)…hmmmmm, let’s consider all sides here. Easy street, right?
When we pulled into our driveway, I became keenly aware of all that was askew. I noted the Christmas garland that adorns our house as February comes to a close. The broken decorative plate masking the ice melt bag – next to the front door. One might think we were part of a Christmas drug bust, swept away to our new life in witness protection!
Dishes piled in the sink, forgotten rotting laundry never switched over. A red glitter Christmas tree and Valentine’s heart in same peripheral view– at least I maintain a consistent look for every holiday, right?
I immediately whip up a to-do list for the family to fall in line and spend one of the last days of vacation creating new Law & Order in the family barracks.
And then I hear it. I hear myself barking orders instead of having the kids run off and play. I feel the family dynamic shift. I can hear the faint whisper of ‘It’s A Hard Knock Life’ soundtrack cueing up.
I step back. I remember spending the last few years trying to unravel my tightly wound need to have everything just so. This perceived lack of togetherness was my personal objective. I also sense a universal lack of morale from my entire family infantry.
I release them from their duties. I must remember:
Although I take great pleasure in put-togetherness, in silence, and in order – I’ve worked hard not to impose that on everyone around me. My kids are just that: kids. We are a family, and we run more smoothly without the pressure to be perfect. I’ve worked hard to fight that impulse (I still have work to do). I need to refocus on the gifts that the noise, life, and chaos have to offer, and let the other stuff go, just a little bit more.
For now, I try to find moments in each day to savor the solitude. I’m fortunate to have such time to myself.
When the family isn’t with me, I relish the SILENCE. I pick up the house and appreciate what little I do I have control over, even for a short while. When I scan the house and yard and see chaos, it means that I’ve given myself permission to go out and experience life, outside of being a mother and a maid.
Did I spend a good part of that day whipping things back into order? YES! My car is free of food bits, random clothes, and miscellaneous papers. My fridge is free of moldy leftovers. I have the inspiration of our friends to thank for that! And it felt sooooo good!
Still– the bedrooms are a mess, and the laundry is yet to be folded. The Christmas garland will have to wait another day, or week. Someday the kids will move on– and I will surely miss the mess, the sounds, and the chaos. In the meantime, I’ll continue to strive for a messier-than-I-prefer balance between both worlds.
But most importantly, does anyone have a red glitter shamrock I can borrow? St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner– you should get it back by September.
Do you struggle with finding the parental balance? Who am I kidding, that’s a silly question! Forget about the balance! What do you do to piddle away your kidless time?
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Boss Mom Outlaw
Oh my God. It’s so hard to keep anything clean for more than a day. And the backseat of my car is literally where dreams go to die.
Haha love the video and kudos on the Scary Mommy feature. I feel you, lady. I gave up trying to be perfect a long time ago. <3
This is such a great post and love the writing style. We can understand and as we are sailing in same boat
Lately I’ve had a really hard time accepting that my house just won’t be out together most ofte. I have a one year old who lives to pull out every toy and everything out of every cabinet and drawer that he can. And by the time I spend my day cleaning that and the dishes and laundry, there’s just never enough time for the extra. But we’re also trying to make memories and enjoy our life, so I’m trying to be calm about it – a little bit at least!