Sunday, January 10, 2016

Fun Advice 16-18: Spots and Messes

            #16  If there is one thing that I know for certain, it’s that, with children, there will be spots.  Get comfortable with spots on your clothes.  When you have young children, you can expect spots of all kinds, from coffee to spaghetti sauce to spit-up to snot.  (Body fluids don’t scare you as much after having children!) 
            And how is it that when I’m mixing batter and one drop flies out of a bowl, it lands square on my shirt in a spot that I don’t really want people staring at?  Despite the fact that it had about 270 other degrees it could have gone?  That, or it will hit me right in the eye, going around the glasses that I’m wearing.  That always amazes me!  I am not kidding, the other night during dinner, Ryder was sitting three feet away from me.  Three feet!  When he said something, a large piece of food shot out of his mouth, flew around my glasses, and hit me right in the inside corner of my eye, where it proceeded to bother me for an hour.  How in the world? 

            And remember that you can always tell another mother of young children by the spots on her disheveled, wrinkled clothes.  There’s no point in being overly embarrassed by them.  (A friend of mine, Gina, worked at a camp one summer and told me this story.  One of the little girls in her cabin was crying about something, and Gina was trying to comfort her.  As this little girl cried, snot began running down her face.  And you know what she did?  She grabbed the end of Gina’s shirt, that she was still wearing, and blew her nose all over it.  With kids, spots happen!)

            #17  Don’t be too concerned, either, about toys and stuff all over the house when you have young ones.  Remember that you’re only one person and something has to slide.  (I say this mostly to comfort myself!)  You know what I’ve learned anyway?  If you wait long enough, the mess usually reaches a certain plateau and doesn’t get much messier than that (probably because it can’t).  So, why try to kill yourself fighting it? 
            I have tried time and time again to explain this to my husband when he wonders why I can’t keep up with the mess.  And lately, he has been cleaning up a lot around the house.  And I have had the sadistic pleasure of overhearing him muttering to himself while cleaning the kitchen, “No matter how much I clean up around here, it’s still just as messy.  It doesn’t even look like I’ve done any work at all.  Why do I bother?  I may as well just leave it because no matter how much work I do, it doesn’t get any cleaner.”  (Thank You, Lord!  Thank You, thank You for letting me overhear that!) 
            But you know the amazing part?  I still can’t convince him that it’s the natural order of things when you have young children in a very small space all day.  So, bless his heart, he still keeps trying.  Now, I know he’ll be upset if I don’t add this:  I do need to teach the kids to pick up after themselves more.  That is part of the reason the house is such a disaster.  (But, honestly, that is just as much work as doing it myself.)   
            #18  By all means, don’t wait until the house is spotless to have company over, especially when company has young kids of their own.  They probably have a house that’s just as messy (although you’ll never know it because it’s always cleaned up for company).  Be brave!  Be the first one to admit, “This is how the house normally looks.  So if you don’t mind the mess, you’re more than welcome to come over.” 
            When we were just getting to know Jon and Amy, the neighbors across the street from our first house, they invited us over to visit.  And when we walked in, their house looked lived-in . . . normal.  And Jon said something that I just loved.  He said, “If we wait till the house is spotless, we may never have company over.  I’d rather just have company come over.”  I thought that was so real, so great.  (And for the record, their “lived-in” look was still a lot cleaner than ours.  And even more so lately.  One of these days, I’ll get there.) 
            I used to get pretty upset when people would pop over without calling first, embarrassed by the mess.  My in-laws had of way of doing this.  And, usually, they would show up before I’ve been able to brush my hair, change out of my pajamas and get the kids dressed.  (So what if it was 10 a.m.?)  I can’t think of a time that they have come over when the house looked respectably clean.  I’d even settle for not-quite-a-disaster.  It used to embarrass me and I would try to come up with some half-truths to explain the mess. 
            “Oh, sorry about the mess.  We are going through our bins and switching clothes for the season.” (Umm, yeah!  It’s the middle of the summer.)  Or “It was clean over the weekend, but we just had company over and it got destroyed again.” (Two weekends ago!)  Or my favorite, “I’m going through everything to weed stuff out.”  (Which I’ve been doing for three years now.  And that is really not a lie!) 
            At some point, I just got tired of apologizing for the mess.  Now when they come over unexpectedly, I just say, “The place is a disaster because . . . well, because it always is.  Just kick the toys aside and, if you can find them, pick up the couch cushions and put them back on the couch so you can sit down.”  I figure they should know me by now.  I’m not fooling anyone. 
            I’ve learned to not judge others by the mess in their house.  And when I am tempted to be shocked at someone else’s messy house, it dawns on me, “Oh, wait!  This is exactly how my house looks.”  And suddenly, I feel a certain camaraderie with them and the mess doesn’t seem so disturbing.  I just enjoy the visit.  After all, as a friend graciously told me on her first visit to my house when I apologized for the mess, “Well, It’s a good thing I came to see you and not your house.”  Thank you!  Thank you very much!