My mom once told me, “Cleaning your house with kids playing is like trying to brush your teeth while eating an Oreo cookie.” Oh, how absolutely true that can be! The “pre-kiddos” me was borderline OCD – anything other than perfectly straightened and clean was heart chaos. After my first was born, I was able to maintain that semblance of peace and tidy, but, nineteen months later, that all went sideways. Adding number two meant a lot more, well, number two! My only means of sanity was learning how to ignore the clutter and letting go of my ideal household. Still, there are those huge messes – the broadsiding “this is going to take hours to clean up” types – that can really get to us. This is the embraceable disarray.
It is said that boys make bigger and more disgusting messes than girls, but in our family, it isn’t my son that has caused the most chaotic upheaval, but my daughters that do! For instance, my eldest – the artist. When she was a little less than two years of age, one of her masterpieces stunk…literally. After waking early from a morning nap, she was suspiciously quiet, but happy – so I continued cleaning my bathroom, instead of going in to check on her. Bad move! She had climbed out of her crib and decided to add to the artwork already in the room. Using the dark clumps her digestive track had created after waking, she proceeded to scoop out pieces and use them as brown finger paints – coloring pictures on the walls, furniture, and some toys. Imagine my amazement when I opened her door! First, I was greeted by the lovely aroma accompanying such creative artistry. Then, her happy face and “‘ook, momma! I ‘ainted deese!” If she hadn’t have been so cute and proud of herself, I may have had a major meltdown right then and there. Embracing the disarray, I praised her handy work before explaining that we don’t use poop as paint!
My son did stay true to his gender, but not in such a gag-inducing way. After coming home from a play date, I put on one of the kids favorite shows and ran upstairs to change my clothes. Apparently, a toddler can do an incredible amount of damage in a 7-10 minute window of time. When I stepped into the kitchen, my feet felt it – the wet. I looked to my left, where only my daughter still sat on the couch, eyes glued to the animated entertainment that I so wrongly assumed would keep them both occupied. Looking to the right, I saw him, a bowl in his hands, frozen like a statue in front of the fridge. At his feet was the kids’ toilet chair insert, already overflowing with water. “What are you doing?!”
“Ummmmm. Don’t ask me dat!” Mr. cute furrowed forehead told me.
“Why is the floor all wet?” (Mind you, I was at least 6 feet away from him.) “Cause I made it,” he said, proudly.
“Why in the world would you want to make the floor wet?!” I am trying to remain calm…poorly.
“Cause I going swimming!!” He was entirely too excited. “See, I get water here, den I put water dare, den I make a pool!”
Yes, he got water out of the fridge via a bowl, then dumped it into the toilet insert, and, once full, onto the floor. I later found out that desk was also wet and puzzle pieces were floating in the drawers! At least the mess was made entirely from water…unless there was something in the toilet bowl insert before he started…sigh.
My youngest creates the most chaos – Miss Independent. With her, I have cleaned up gallons of milk spilled on the floor, eggs crushed on the refrigerator shelves, and scrubbed marker stains off numerous surfaces. However, I would classify these as Oreo cookie messes. Her biggest was the make-up day. With two girls, I should have expected a day such as this. Upon entering my bathroom one day, I spotted her on the floor, surrounded by half empty cosmetic containers. She went beyond using it on her face and also “painted” the floor various shades of red and pink, with lipstick, and her hair a nice shade of brown…that kid!
Embrace the messes – see them as creative artistry and engineering ingenuity – whatever keeps the kettle from boiling over, sanity lost. The imagination of children, however many hours it takes to clean, can always be embraced…especially after a good cry or large glass of wine!
Beth Rose is a wife and homeschooling mother to three children, ages 13, 12, and 8. As a childhood leukemia survivor, she founded and runs the not-for-profit, HeartBoxed, and works with pediatric bone marrow transplant patients. She is a life-long writer and blogs about the aspects of writing – the good, the bad, and the humorous at https://bethrosecontinuingwriter.blogspot.com.