Once, I saw a meme that read, “If you like to clean messes you didn’t make, have kids.”
This… is… extremely… TRUE.
No one warned me.
No one warned me about anything to do with kids for that matter, and if they did, I didn’t remember. I would have appreciated a book or something to at least get me somewhat ready for what was about to happen.
I know this would NEVER be real, but in the back of my mind, I imagined having no laundry. Yeah, right. It’s just like dishes – never-ending. As soon as the last batch is done, there is one more, at ALL times. You’re wearing clothes, aren’t you? Everyone else has clothes on, don’t they? There’s another batch.
Then, I realized the only way that would happen is if everyone was naked. As I sprung up this idea to my oldest son who is ten, I shouted, “Everyone should just go naked!!! No more clothes guys! Y’all dirty waaayyyy too much clothes!!!”
He looked at me with eyes almost crossed and face scrunched in a grotesque way, “Ewww mom!” Then proceeds to analyze, “Hey, wait, so that’s probably what would’ve happened if Adam and Eve wouldn’t have sinned right? Because they covered themselves with the fig leaves after. We would all be naked?!?”
“Yes, I guess more than likely.”
He quickly answered with big eyes, “I am SOOO glad they did that!”
That’s how many of our conversations go around here. I spend most of my days answering puzzling questions from two little boys and answering the same question 20 times from my toddler princess. Often, they try to ask me questions all at the same time, and before my brain starts to catch fire, I must teach them once again to please take turns!
This makes me think back to when I was younger, and I used to ask my dad questions non-stop in the car ride. I thought he was so smart because he always seemed to know the answers to my questions.
But one thing I don’t really remember is being an unorganized, messy kid. My now adult-clean-freak self doesn’t even remember being messy. Not long ago, I remembered asking my mom if it was a gender thing. Like, “Are boys more messy than girls?”
She responded in a sure tone, “Nope, girls are messy too.”
I guess that sums it up! In other words, yes, I was messy, too.
There’s one thing I’ve learned after three kids – kids are messy. If your kid isn’t messy, I don’t even know what to say. But anyhow, that’s beside the point. I am certainly not perfect, but there’s one thing I’m not – and that’s lazy. I can be lazy about some things, but housework is not usually one of them. So even though I may have been a messy kid, I’m pretty neat now!
When we first got married, I remembered wiping down the bathroom counter every single day. Any time something had a spot or a piece of dust, I would wipe it. Although I’ll admit that I was never very efficient at keeping up with the laundry, you could walk in our little 2-bedroom apartment at any time, and it was usually close-to-spotless.
Then, I started having kids.
After our first child, I was still pretty good at keeping up with the housework. And even though I had a full-time job away from home for a while, I still managed to satisfy my zest for a clean home. Then came the second child, and then came the third. The word “exhausted” now has a whole new meaning. I love when college kids tell me how exhausted they are, or how people who have no kids are saying they are so “tired.” Well, I thought I was tired back then too! I once had a full-time college schedule and a job, and I could barely peel myself out of bed then. Now, I really know what “tired” means. I now know what our parents went through to raise us, and I believe that any parent who has brought up a decent kid in this world deserves the utmost honor. Please roll out the red carpet.
No one told me it was this hard.
Well, let me rephrase that: Doing the right thing is hard. I’m not talking about finding potatoes in your shoes or a rotten potato under the couch and telling the kids they shouldn’t do that. That part is SO easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
What’s hard for us parents is to tell them “No,” over and over, knowing that their plea is somewhat legitimate, but you know you can’t give in or else. Or else you risk those sneaky voices doing that to you on a regular basis. Kids are so sneaky, and if left unchecked, are pros at getting what they want. The attitudes, the constant correction during the early years, and the guilt associated with it all can surely be a hard thing for most. Making the right decisions for your children when it comes to knowing how to discipline certain areas in their life and knowing when to say “No” or “Yes” can be confusing sometimes, too.
Then, there’s the added benefit of seeing everyone else’s kids around you get to do things you don’t approve of for your kids, or vice versa. There’s so much to it and at all angles. Then, there’s people’s opinions (including mine) about how to raise your kids.
I read as much as I can to try to help myself with understanding child-raising, but like my mom has said before, “It all comes down to common sense.” Basically, do what YOU think is right, no matter what anyone else thinks. Don’t do things just because you think it will impress someone or make you “look” better as a parent. We adults get peer pressure just as much as our kids, if not more. We don’t always want to admit it, but many of us make decisions based on what other parents are doing.
I’ve heard Meg Meeker say many times not to make decisions based on what we fear others will think, or just out of fear in general. All we can ever do is try our best. I know exactly when I’m not trying my best in doing something to my full potential. We all know what our “best” is. It’s not someone else’s best. It’s your best.
This year makes for our 13th anniversary, and I’m so thankful for the blessings God has bestowed upon us. It hasn’t always been peaches and cream, but when I look back, I thank God for where we’ve been and where He has brought us.
For the majority of my married life, I’ve managed to stay on top of the “mess” in the home. You know, the ones who don’t pick up after themselves. You know what I’m talking about. But after having a larger family, I’ve come to realize that I cannot do it all alone, especially with kids at the ages that I have them. It’s so easy for me to just start picking up stuff dragging and not asking for help. Then, I realized that my body also cannot keep up with what my mind wants to do. My base boards can’t be totally dust-and-dirt-free every day, and my bathroom counters and sinks can’t be toothpaste-free every hour. They usually have some sort of toothpaste stuck somewhere!
A few years ago, I’ve also realized that it’s also not very appetizing to live with someone who thinks their home should be sparkling and spotless every second of the day. How does that make everyone else in the home feel? Well, when I feel stressed because the small number of dishes wasn’t picked up or the blankets weren’t perfectly draped onto the couch every second, that stress leaks out into everyone else around me.
I’m not saying that I should never worry about keeping my home clean. This is not an excuse to skip housework altogether. Trust me, I cannot and will not live in a dirty house. Messy and dirty are two different things. “Messy” just means stuff needs to be picked up. “Dirty” means that stuff needs to be picked up, the floors haven’t been swept in weeks, toilets look like public restrooms, and there’s no telling what is under the pile of stuff all over the kitchen counter. I’ve known people who don’t even eat at their kitchen table because there’s always a pile of stuff on it (sorry if that’s you). There’s no reason why those things can’t be kept under control for the most part. If they absolutely can’t be kept up with, like ever, maybe it’s time to evaluate some things so that it can get under control. Studies have shown how important it is to eat dinner together as a family, especially at the kitchen table.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s important to spend time with your kids and to have them in extra-curricular activities. But if those “activities” have you spending more than you have (time and money), it may be time to re-evaluate. My son would be great in any sport because he is so very athletic, and we’d love to put him in three different sports. At the same time, we also know what that will do to our sacred family time and to my husband and I running the roads all the time. I don’t feel like being completely exhausted all the time. Hey, maybe that works for some people. That’s another subject for another day.
It is important that our family lives in a clean and at least somewhat organized home, but perfection has got to go. On the other hand, disorganization causes stress, and a dirty home is just embarrassing and unsanitary. It’s also embarrassing for the kids when they want to have friends over, even though they may not say anything about it. I’ve heard grown adults talk about their childhood home saying that they were embarrassed to ever have friends over. Let’s not be that home. Giving the kids special “jobs” really helps out with keeping the mess to a minimum.
I also think it’s important to let our kids make a mess – sometimes. Then, teach them to clean it up. Don’t clean up every little thing behind them. Let them help in the kitchen and get oatmeal and flour on the floor, while still teaching them to be careful. But, it’s okay if they make a mess. A mess can be cleaned up. Let them slow down your dinner preparation sometimes so they feel like they’ve had a part. If I can never let them slow down my dinner prep because I’m always in a hurry, it’s time to evaluate my current life status. If my children always feel like they’re “in the way,” or “slowing me down,” I should think about how that might affect their outlook on how they fit in mom’s life.
Giving them special chores, or jobs, is also a great way to help kids learn responsibility and have a part on the family team. Let’s face it – mom can’t do it all by herself unless she never went to sleep. There must be help from everyone in the family. Even with the help I get, I still don’t watch TV often and hardly sit down, aside from homeschooling. But, that’s just me anyways. I’ll find something else to do, regardless.
It hit me really hard one day when I realized that worrying about a spotless home is not as important as making sure that our kids know their worth. And then again, it’s also important to teach them to be a responsible and clean individual that is a positive contributor to society. In order to do that, I believe it’s important to not only focus on the task at hand, but rather the discipline at hand.
I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t know everything about raising kids, and I get many questions answered by a phone call to my mom or a conversation with my mother-in-law. But, I found the answer for almost all child-raising questions in the scriptures. As Hebrews 12:11 reads,
“For the moment, all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
I’ve learned that more than anything, teaching our kids to force themselves to do something they don’t really WANT to do and do it because they will like the result, is the ultimate key to creating self-disciplined individuals. That’s the definition of discipline – doing something you don’t want to do, but you do it because you like the results.
If we can help to shape a disciplined individual, we can be assured that they will carry out self-discipline into adulthood and accomplish anything they really want to accomplish.
One of the things I have trouble disciplining myself to do is laundry. Yes, even still. I get it done, but very slowly. We have five people in our family, and if we all change twice a day, that makes 10 changes of clothes per day. I know this is nothing compared to people who have a larger family, but this is a lot for me all by myself. Everyone in the house helps with laundry every now and then, and I appreciate it more than they know.
But one day, my world got a little brighter when my perspective changed.
This is exactly the point of my whole rambling story. As I was standing at the sink washing dishes one day, I was reminded of this one thing:
One day, there won’t be as many dishes to wash.
One day, all those messes won’t be there anymore.
And from the way time has flown by already, it won’t be long before my ten-year-old graduates from high school. As I patiently wait for that day, I should embrace the crazy day we’re in. The 10 daily changes of clothes and mile-high laundry will soon be a distant memory, and I will want them back for a moment. They’re only here for a short time, and I must focus on what is most important now.
So, let them make a mess. Let them scramble the eggs as they spill over the sides of the bowl. Let them interrupt dinner preparation by helping to stir something, and take those moments to teach them how to prep and cook. Let them fold the towels all crazy while helping with the laundry while you teach them to do it correctly. Let them make tents in the living room and make their own “creative” sandwiches. And then, take the time to teach them to clean it up.
The mess, and those moments will soon be gone.