Monday, October 28, 2013

I've chosen my kids.

I've chosen my kids.

Evidenced by my spot-ful bathrooms, my baskets of unfolded laundry, my to-do list that kept getting longer until I put it aside and let it collect dust. And then that and all the other dust in my house that rests undisturbed. Also evidenced by the fact I started this post three weeks ago and just now returned to those four words: I've chosen my kids.

Some people would be shocked (and maybe delighted) to know that vacuum tracks are no longer mandatory in my home. I can't tell you the last time I mopped my bathroom floor. Partly because I'm not sure, partly because I'm afraid people would don hazmat suits before coming over to my house. Having a less-than-clean house used to really bother me. And don't get me wrong: I adore the smell of clean. I love spotless mirrors and shiny faucets. I love laundry that is folded and put away. And, above all else, I still love vacuum tracks the way I love a good back rub. Vacuum tracks, to me, actually feel good.

But. I've had an epiphany. One that probably most mothers get when their first is 2. I've chosen my kids. And I like it.

A few weeks ago I was out to dinner in a group where I only knew a couple people. Leading up to this dinner, I had been feeling increasingly discouraged with certain aspects of my life, most of it centered around neatness and home maintenance. My kids' rooms never seem clean. If they are, it lasts for hours (if they're not home), not days. My kitchen counters are getting more battered by the months. The (white) tile and (white) grout magnify dirt and grime. I began to consider all the little things I could do to "fix" my kitchen. New counters, new this, new that. And I became discouraged. Because all of that takes money and the practical side of me doesn't like to spend lots of money. But it didn't stop me from obsessing. And wrinkling my nose at what I have.

So there I was, disgusted by my house and the little things that were falling apart, listening to two women complain about their houses and everything that was wrong with them when one was just having her kitchen completely remodeled and the other was househunting and just couldn't find the exact perfect house with all of her hopes and dreams tucked inside. (no disrespect to them - remodeling and househunting can be stressful, I get it) But here's what really got to me - the previous 3 times I had run into them, this was their topic. And I realized that my negative feelings about my own home were turning me into a person obsessed with things. And I hated myself for that.

When we first moved into our home, I told myself I would never take it for granted. Up until a couple months ago, every morning I've walked down our stairs, and thought, "I am so lucky." But recently, I'd begun to lose that. I was losing perspective. I was losing my gratitude. And I despised myself for that.

Because honestly, if white grout is getting me down, then I'm a terrible person. I sat there listening to these women go on and on about granite and cabinet-makers and finishes and I made a decision. When I walked in the door and Joel asked how dinner was, I said, "I want to take the kids to DisneyWorld."

Poor Joel didn't think a dinner would cost him quite that much. But I sat down and recounted everything -- how I've been feeling, what was discussed, how I felt. Our kids are only going to be this small for a short amount of time. We always say we'll take them somewhere, but then practicality gets in the way - that pesky thing called SAVINGS that everyone talks up. We have decades ahead of us to update a kitchen (or not). The window of time in which we can make memories with our children is closing. And just recently Gemma wistfully asked me, "Mom, do you think I'll ever get to meet the princesses?" She wasn't whining or being selfish; she was asking a question. One that I realized I so desperately wanted to answer correctly.

As I shared with Joel my thoughts and how I wanted this to be a main part of the kids' Christmas presents and that we'd go shortly after school resumed, he nodded his head slowly.

"Let's do it," he replied.

That night seems to have reset my brain. I've got years ahead of me to have a nice kitchen and spotless bathrooms. When I'm sad my kids are gone, I can spend time perfecting my vacuum tracks. Today, I'm going to continue to let those baskets of laundry sit there while I read to Ainsleigh and play video games with Donovan and cuddle with Gemma. We're baking and playing together and I like who I am again.

Also, my bathrooms aren't totally unkempt. Nope - when the kids ignore me or are rude to each other, they earn strikes. Three strikes (in one day) and they EARN the right to clean a sink (or two, or toilet, or something else) - WINNER! For some reason they don't see it as winning, but I do. We mop the kitchen floor every couple weeks, but we do it together - everyone gets a rag and we all take a corner and then it's done in about 10 minutes. Beauty. (Maybe we should take it to my bathroom.)

I suppose it's better late than never? Some moms figure this out within hours of cutting the cord. I think I thought, in all of my overachievingness, that I could do both. Maybe if I had a housecleaner, I could. Don't think I haven't toyed with that idea. But then we're back to spending money I don't want to spend. And who knows, maybe I will get there some day -- the ability to have clean faucets, spotless toilets and ironed laundry. Maybe.

But for now I've chosen my kids.


Kellie Knapp said...


Shira said...

Seriously, it's like you read my mind and then express it in the perfect way that I never could. I love this so much that I read it three times, nodding and smiling.

Wanda said...

Well said!

Allison said...

Gah, maybe we *should* meet you in Orlando. I was just thinking this morning that my kids don't need more things, but a chance to see their cousins again would be huge. But I was also thinking that maybe you guys should just have a fun only-your-family vacation. Either way, good for you--your kids will like that way more than granite counter tops.

Annie said...

Thanks for this post. I have struggled since Jonathan was born with trying to accomplish everything that I want to do. I still hold onto a belief that I can do it all. But I can't and it makes me feel badly that I can't. I need to just let go. I mean I already have - a lot. But I need to more. Not sure how to do that...