Life is good! At least that’s the theme of a certain trendy store full of happy clothing, coffee mugs, baseball caps, bumper stickers, hiking gear and the like. Yeah, it’s good alright, but it’s also downright messy! Ask any mom of one or more, and you will find confirmation. In fact as I write this, I’m thinking I may want to market my own clothing line “Life is Messy*” with a disclaimer on the back that says “And That’s The Stinkin’ Truth!”
Wear one of my shirts, and barf and poo will just look like the latest urban trend in fashion design. You’ll be more than shabby chic, you’ll be the genuine article of the Life Is Messy cult following. Wear your stains as badges of honor. The more you have the better parent you clearly are. Digging in the garden? Throw some extra dirt on there for good measure. Kid has a blowout diaper, and you’re out of wipes? That’s what the shirt is for dad! Forgot the Kleenexes? Again, use the shirt. No hand sanitizer? Get real! Use that shirt mama!
Here’s the rub. That cute little baby you see above? Well, he grew. He finally stopped sharing his mama’s milk and his lunch by yellowing every shirt I ever owned, but all that really happened was that the mess was reconstituted into new form. Now very door frame has a tinge of blackness, and dark fingerprints and hand prints dot the mid line of our walls like ghost chair railing. Shoes that trampled in dirt have darkened our ivory carpet to a dingy shade of brown. While the broom catches it’s breath in the closet, the house silently screams, “Warning! Children live here!”
See I have older kids too. I’ve already been thru this—twice, in fact. One day you’ll look back, and you’ll agree it pretty much will have happened like this:
The first few years go by, and the expensive art prints you had framed when you were single will have been replaced by collage frames of your children, of all different ages and places haphazardly thrown together in a single frame. And of course the real art work. Yellowing and corner-curled preschool paintings dot your walls and smother your refrigerator. You know you really should get rid of some of it, but just what if your child really is the next Renoir prodigy?
After five or six years, you’ll tire of sorting and organizing the thirty or so plastic tubs and fabric bins in shelves that you once had the novel idea that you and your child could practice “sorting skills”. Now the lessons in sorting get reduced to, “Get this CRAP off the floor right now; I mean it, or this time I really will throw it all away.”
The calendar pages keep blowing into the wind. Soon you are in the elementary years with school projects and friends and sleep overs. More food; more footprints. Bug collections, princess costumes, thousands of stuffed animals, Barbies, Legos, Beanie Babies, Poke E Mon cards, happy meal toys, DVDs, VHS-tapes (if your kids are “old school”), train sets, board games, paperback books, hardboard baby books, rock collections, sticker collections, crafts, and a few hundred other things move in when you aren’t paying total attention. While you are sleeping, the toys all have breeding parties and when you wake up, you find they multiplied, but still you’ll be too tired to pick it all up. Though you’ll weed things out from time to time, they’ll still viciously and systematically take over your house room by room.
Three years of middle school will come and go faster than a rotating door in a hotel lobby. With these years comes “The Age of Electronic-us”. Each child will successfully convince you their life will cease to be fully functional without any of these necessary items: cell phones, Wiis, Super Nintendos, Guitar hero guitars, digital cameras, portable car DVD players, Ipods and Ipads, Laptops, and chargers, so many chargers. The batteries that made you nuts only a few years ago, get replaced by long spindly, tangled up things that live like nomads roaming your house and are never in sight when desperately needed. It’s all good; you’re thinking if the Dollar Tree ever has a half-price sale, you may even try to get some new clothes for yourself one of these days.
By high school, you’ve made an uneasy truce with living a “highly charged” life and you are just mentally counting down the 1,460 days or so left, of “Life with Baby”. The choking hazards of yesteryear have been replaced by the scary realization that the child who still doesn’t know how to properly put a comforter on a mattress is now actually driving five thousand pounds of deadly force with one or more equally mature friends to an alleged destination they possibly may have told you about three weeks ago.
Three hours after their curfew passes, you’ll attempt for the seventeenth time to get some answers. You text them this profound philosophical question, “Where are you?” even though your eyes are growing dim, due to your advancing age of forty–plus. Since their phone mysteriously doesn’t seem to ring or “must be on silent” when only you call, you’ll get your answer texted back a few hours later, once the consensus has unanimously been crafted as to what is most likely to be the answer that will worry you the least. Even if it’s a tad short of the truth, it’ll have to suffice for now.
Then the big day arrives! Graduation! Congratulations and celebrations ensue. Suddenly—they’re gone. You look at your house. What happened? The carpet’s long past shot. Walls need to be repainted. It’ll take years to just carry all this stuff to the Goodwill or the curb. And all the ribbons, and trophies, and pictures, and artwork, what in the world are you going to do with it? You know you have to get rid of it, yet how can you? This picture they finger painted, this student of the week ribbon, this tattered Cinderella costume, this baseball trophy, that’s who THEY were! Throwing some of this stuff out seems like parental heresy.
Family life is this: It’s hard, with moments peppered with hormones, deadlines and cruel calendars, worry and fear, silent treatments and arguments. It’s also good with clay pinch pots made just for you, family vacations, hugs when you cry, and handwritten cards that say, “I love you becuz yur my momy and you play wth me and let me eat chikn” as I tearfully received recently. Through it all, life is messy. Be sure to savor the sweetness found in the dirt!